Millions of women planning to vote in November to preserve abortion rights
An abortion-rights activist holds a hanger during a rally along North State Street in the Loop, Saturday, May 7, 2022, in Chicago. Thousands attended the rally, which was organized in response to a leaked Supreme Court draft opinion written by Justice Samuel Alito, who supported overturning Roe v. Wade. Roe was overturned, abortion becoming illegal in 26 states as a result. Protests have since been channeled into massive voter registration by women determined to protect their rights. | Pat Nabong/Sun-Times/Chicago Sun-Times via AP

If Democrats defy history and retain majorities in the U.S. House and Senate in November, the day the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the federal right to an abortion may be seen forever as the day millions of women decided to vote this year to change the direction of the country in favor of democracy.

Since the unpopular U.S. Supreme Court decision repealing Roe vs. Wade on June 24, and even earlier in May with the leak of the draft by Justice Alito, registration of women voters, particularly young women, has spiked. Increased registration is a measure of voter enthusiasm, so it is a determined mass of women voters who may well may save our democracy a little more than a month from now.

The impact of the Dobbs decision is unmistakable. “Wow. I’ve been sharing data showing a huge surge in women registering to vote since the June 24 Dobbs decision. I just started to look at some age and party breakdowns of those new registrants, and the numbers are jaw-dropping,” said Tom Bonier of TargetSmart.

The decision’s impact was first felt in the record voter turnout in Kansas to defeat the anti-abortion referendum. Trump won Kansas 56% to 41% over Biden in 2020, and Republican voters outnumbered Democrats by 400,000, but voters defeated the referendum by a shocking 20%.

“This is going to energize voters who do not vote in mid-term elections,” said Cecile Richards, co-chair of American Bridge 21st Century and former president of Planned Parenthood. “People in Kansas came out in droves and I suspect they will be back for the mid-term elections. The anger that that instills in women across this country, I can’t describe it.”

Seventy percent were women

Seventy percent of people who registered to vote in Kansas after the June 24 Dobbs decision were women, Bonier found. “I’ve never seen anything approaching that degree of a gender gap. It just doesn’t happen.”

Over two-thirds of Americans say the Dobbs decision, which eliminated a right won fifty years ago, was a “major loss of rights” for women. Some 70% of Latino voters, a young voting population, say it should be legal regardless of personal belief. Republicans are stuck, having baked the issue into the election framework. GOP candidates, like Arizona senate candidate Blake Masters, are now running scared and scrubbing their campaign websites of anti-abortion content. But it’s too late.

They are “the dog that caught the bus,” said Richards. “This is what they’ve been wanting for years. Now they own it. The world just completely flipped upside down after the Dobbs decision,” she said. “We’re no longer defending a right. We now actually have to fight to get a right back.”

Republicans, driven by extreme right-wing Christian white supremacists and MAGA fascists, are digging themselves deeper into a hole by outdoing each other to pass the most restrictive anti-abortion legislation. That includes outlawing abortion even in cases of rape, incest, and a threat to the mother’s life. Republicans are vowing to impose a national ban on abortion if they recapture Congress and the presidency in 2024.

Before Dobbs, young voters nationwide were about 23% of new registrants. Since Dobbs, that number has risen to 29%, driven mainly by young women, although men concerned about the issue are registering too. These numbers are similar to youth registration levels in 2018, when young people voted in massive numbers following the Parkland massacre and were critical to Democrats winning the House.

And it’s not just Kansas. Voter registration among women, particularly young women, has jumped in many states. Bonier says this is most apparent in states where abortion access has been banned, criminalized, or threatened. Nevertheless, the surge in registrations reflects voter intensity and enthusiasm.

Democrats, running heavily on the issue of defending and restoring abortion rights, have also outperformed their 2020 vote share in at least five special elections since the Dobbs decision and voter registration figures in multiple states and congressional districts. The results may also indicate moderate Republican voters have broken with MAGA anti-abortion candidates.

The elimination of the federal right to an abortion is part of the more significant assault on democracy by the GOP-dominated U.S. Supreme Court and GOP-dominated state legislatures, so alarming to a large part of the electorate. The attack on democracy is the country’s top issue, according to a recent NBC poll and the attack on abortion rights is a central part.

Another powerful example is the special election in the 19th Congressional District in New York to fill a vacant seat. Women voters drove Democrat Pat Ryan’s victory over a moderate Republican. The district is a reliably GOP area that went for Trump in 2020. Yet Ryan won by focusing on the abortion issue.

“The foundations of democracy are under direct threat. Choice is on the ballot. Democracy on the line,” said Ryan.

Women accounted for 58% of the early/absentee votes in the race, despite comprising only 52% of registered voters. The absentee vote was plus 16% women, compared to plus 4% in the 2020 general election.

The alarm, fear, and anger expressed by voters are not just over the Roe vs. Wade decision but also the horrendous “trigger” laws in at least eight states. The nation is seeing the real-life consequences of these laws, including the ten-year-old rape victim in Ohio forced to get an abortion in Indiana because Ohio bans abortions, even in the case of rape or incest.

Trend seen everywhere

And the trend of increased registrations in response to the criminalizing of abortion is seen elsewhere. New registrants in Pennsylvania were plus 4% Democrat, and post-Dobbs decision is plus 30% for Democrats. Women account for more than 56% of new registrants, and almost two-thirds Democrat.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker receives a hug during an abortion-rights rally in the Loop, Saturday, May 7, 2022, in Chicago. Pritzger has vowed to maintain abortion rights in Illinois if he is reelected in November. | Pat Nabong/Chicago Sun-Times via AP

In North Carolina, pre-Dobbs, new registrants were plus 1% GOP, and post-Dobbs are running plus 5% Democrat.

In Wisconsin, Democratic Senate nominee Mandela Barnes faces Republican incumbent Ron Johnson, and Governor Tony Evers is the only person in the way of implementing an 1849 state law banning abortions altogether. The TargetSmart data show that “women have out-registered men by 15.6%” in this closely contested state. Since Dobbs, Democrats make up” 52.36% of all newly registered voters, compared with 16.59% of new voters registering as Republicans.

Since the Dobbs decision, women have out-registered men by an 11-point margin in Ohio. The women new registrants in Ohio in the 2020 election were plus 5% GOP, and since Dobbs are plus 15% Democrat. Over 55% are women under the age of 35 years old.

In Texas, where Republicans enacted the most restrictive abortion ban in the nation, new registrants this year, before Dobbs, were plus 5% GOP. “Since Dobbs, that has swung to a shocking +10 Dem, a 15-point margin swing,” said Bonier. Restoring abortion access is a central issue in Beto O’Rourke’s campaign for governor.

Pro-abortion organizations are investing heavily in voter turnout, particularly in battleground states. Planned Parenthood, Emily’s List, and NARAL Pro-Choice America announced they would spend $150 million to defeat anti-abortion candidates. Democrats are spending eight times more on abortion ads than Republicans.

Planned Parenthood is pouring a record $50 million into voter mobilization in nine states where GOP legislatures and governors threaten abortion rights along with critical Senate races.

“We say this every cycle: ‘This is the important election,’” said Amy Kennedy of Planned Parenthood Votes in Georgia. “For us, this really is the most important election cycle of our life.”

A state constitutional amendment protecting abortion rights is before voters in Michigan. Abortion rights activists gathered a record number of signatures to put the measure on the ballot.

President Biden laid out the stark choices for voters at a campaign rally in Maryland on Aug. 27. Biden said 81 million Americans voted to save democracy and oust Trump and Republicans in 2020 and would have to do it again in 2022.

“And it’s not hyperbole. Now you need to vote to literally save democracy again,” said Biden. “If we elect two more senators, we keep the House — and Democrats, we’re going to get a lot of unfinished business we’re going to get done.”

“Folks, look, we’ll codify Roe v. Wade. We’ll ban assault weapons. We’ll protect Social Security and Medicare. We’ll pass universal pre-K. We’ll restore the Childcare Tax Credit. We’ll protect voting rights. We’ll pass election reform and make sure no one — no one — ever has the opportunity to steal an election again.”


John Bachtell
John Bachtell

John Bachtell is president of Long View Publishing Co., the publisher of People's World. He is active in electoral, labor, environmental, and social justice struggles. He grew up in Ohio, where he attended Antioch College in Yellow Springs. He currently lives in Chicago.