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Democrats are counting on abortion in 2024, as Arizona and Florida continue to raise the stakes

Kamala Harris’ Friday visit to Arizona was planned before the state’s highest court upheld a 160-year-old law banning nearly all abortions. But the news amplified the vice president’s message, one that has already delivered stunning victories for liberals since the fall of Roe v Wade nearly two years ago.

That message is simple: abortion bans happen when Republicans are in power.

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“Women here live under one of the most extreme abortion bans in our country. … The overturning of Roe was without a doubt a seismic event, and this ban here in Arizona is one of the biggest aftershocks yet,” Harris said at the event in Tucson. “Overturning Roe was just the opening act of a larger strategy to take away women’s rights and freedoms… We all need to understand who is to blame. Former President Donald Trump did this.”

The Arizona Supreme Court’s ruling came Tuesday, just days after a Florida Supreme Court ruling cleared the way for a six-week abortion ban, a decision that will cut off access to the procedure before many women even know they are pregnant are. These successive statements roiled the United States, raising the already high stakes of the 2024 election to sky-high new heights. Activists in both states are now working on ballot measures that would ask voters to enshrine abortion rights in their states’ constitutions this November.

Democrats are hopeful that these efforts — and the potential threat of more bans under the Trump administration — will mobilize voters in their favor, because abortion rights are popular among Americans, and Republicans have spent years imposing restrictions . Democrats have made abortion rights a central issue in their campaigns in Arizona, already expected to be a major battleground, and Florida, a longtime election bellwether that has swung further to the right in recent years.

For Joe Biden, who is struggling to generate enthusiasm among voters, turning 2024 into a referendum on abortion might be his best chance to defeat Donald Trump. But it remains an open question whether the response to Roe’s overturn will continue to galvanize voters in a presidential election year when they may be more influenced by concerns about the economy and immigration.

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“In public polls you might ask, ‘What is your most important issue?’ You will see abortion in the middle, maybe even at the bottom,” said Tresa Undem, co-founder of the polling firm PerryUndem, who has been studying public opinion on abortion for two decades. “But when you talk to core groups that the Democrats need, that is central.”

A recent Wall Street Journal poll found Trump with a double-digit lead when swing state voters were asked who would best handle the economy, inflation and immigration, but they trusted Biden more on the issue of abortion. A Fox News poll in March found that most Arizona voters believe Biden will do a better job of addressing the issue of abortion, but that it was less of a priority than the economy, election integrity and foreign policy.

Related: Arizona’s abortion ban is a political nightmare for Republicans in the 2024 elections

For Biden, abortion “is the best issue for him right now,” Undem said. “All the data I’ve seen about the upcoming election shows that young people are not nearly as motivated to vote as they were in 2020. And so in places like Arizona, the total ban – and I never make predictions – I think it’s young people, especially young women.”

The Biden campaign released two abortion-focused ads this week, including one featuring a Texas woman who was denied an abortion after her waters broke too early in pregnancy. (She ended up in intensive care.) Indivisible, a national grassroots organization with a local presence in states across the country, said volunteer sign-ups to knock on doors in Arizona jumped 50% after the Supreme Court’s ruling stands. Its members in Arizona help organize rallies in support of reproductive rights, as well as signature-gathering events for the ballot measure.

When Roe fell, abortion rights’ hold on voters was far from guaranteed. Mitch McConnell, longtime Senate Republican leader and architect of the Supreme Court’s conservative majority that overturned Roe, brushed off outrage over its demise as “a wash” in federal elections. Although most Americans support some level of access to the procedure, voters who oppose abortion were more likely to say the issue was important to their vote than voters who supported abortion rights.

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The fall of Roe changed that. The anger over Roe was credited with holding back Republicans’ much-promised “red wave” in the 2022 midterm elections, as abortion rights ballot measures prevailed even in crimson states like Kansas and Kentucky. Last year, when Virginia Republicans tried to regain control of the state Legislature by pushing for a 15-week “compromise” ban, they failed. Democrats now control both chambers in the state.

“When Republicans offer compromises, I think many voters will tend to see them not as what the Republican Party really wants in the long term, but as what the Republican Party thinks is necessary to settle for in the short term.” , said Mary Ziegler, a spokesperson for the Republican Party. Professor at the University of California at Davis School of Law who studies the legal history of reproduction. “They know that the Republicans are aligned with the pro-life movement and the pro-life movement wants the personhood of a fetus and a ban on fertilization.”

In the hours after the Arizona decision, several Republican lawmakers and candidates with a long history of opposing abortion rushed to denounce the near-total ban (which has not yet gone into effect). Republican Senate candidate Kari Lake, who once called abortion the “ultimate sin” and said Arizona’s upcoming near-total abortion ban was “a great law,” tried to clarify her position on the issue in a meandering video lasting more than five minutes. . The ban she once championed — which was passed in 1864, before Arizona even became a state or women got the right to vote — is now “out of step with where the people of this state are,” Lake said.

“It’s less about banning abortion and more about saving babies,” she said, as instrumental music swelled against images of pregnant women and pregnancy tests. She repeatedly emphasized the importance of “choice” – language associated with people who support abortion rights – while at the same time touting the value of “life.”

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Lake also emphasized that she “agrees with President Trump” on abortion. Over the course of his campaign, Trump has alternately taken credit for overturning Roe — since appointing three of the justices who decided to do so — to toying with the idea of ​​a national ban, and pushing for states to pass their own abortion laws can determine. as he did in a video this week.

Related: Florida just crushed abortion rights. But it also created a tool to fight back | Moira Donegan

In that video, released Monday, Trump declined to endorse a federal ban on the procedure after months of teasing his support. On Wednesday, Trump criticized Arizona’s law and predicted that state lawmakers would “bring it back to reason.” Florida’s six-week ban, he suggested, would “probably, maybe change.” He reiterated his criticism Friday, posting on his social media platform that the Arizona Supreme Court went “too far” in upholding an “improper 1864 law” and calling on the Republican-led state legislature to “ACT IMMEDIATELY” to correct decision. . “Ideally we should have the three exceptions for rape, incest and the life of the mother,” he wrote. (The 1864 ban only includes an exception to save the life of the pregnant person.)

“He’s just trying to have it, I think, both ways,” Ziegler said of Trump.

In November, Democrats are counting on real consequences of the bans to outweigh other concerns. “The economy is still important. Immigration is still important, but this is happening immediately,” said Stacy Pearson, an Arizona-based Democratic strategist.

“A woman just wants to be in her gynecologist’s office and have a conversation with her doctor about her medical care, without having to worry about whether old white men in cowboy hats were right in 1864,” Pearson added. “It’s crazy.”

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