Texas abortion ban could hurt GOP's chances in upcoming elections

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The vast majority of voters disapprove of Texas' near-total abortion ban and the state's decision to let private citizens enforce it, according to a new poll.

Texas' near-total ban on abortion is widely unpopular, a new national poll released on Monday found, results that election experts say could have ricochet effects in upcoming political races, including the 2022 midterm elections.

The Monmouth University poll found that a majority of voters, or 54%, disagree with the Supreme Court's decision to let the Texas law go into effect. The law bans abortion at around six weeks gestation — before many people even know they're pregnant — and deputizes private citizens to enforce it through a bounty-like system.

That bounty system is even more unpopular than the Supreme Court decision to let the law take effect. The poll found 70% of Americans oppose Texas' use of private citizens, and not the government, to enforce the law through punitive lawsuits. And 81% disapprove of the law's provision that awards $10,000 to those private citizens who successfully sue abortion providers or those who they believe aided or abetted those abortion procedures.

Stu Rothenberg, a nonpartisan political handicapper and longtime columnist with the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call, said the Texas abortion law is not helpful for the GOP, which needs to win back the suburban women voters it hemorrhaged during former President Donald Trump's tenure. Suburban women voters defected from the GOP and helped Democrats win control of Congress and the White House back from Republicans.

"There is a clearly identifiable constituency against this legislation that is really important in 2022 and 2024, and that is upscale suburban women, and college-educated white women," Rothenberg said in an interview.

Indeed, the Monmouth poll found that the Texas law is broadly unpopular with women. Nearly two-thirds, or 62%, disagree with the Supreme Court's decision to let the Texas law take effect. An even broader 73% of women disapprove of having private citizens enforce the law, and 84% of women disapprove of the $10,000 payments to private citizens who successfully file abortion lawsuits.

"It's a wedge issue among a chunk of crucial voters in the suburbs," Rothenberg said.

Already, Democrats are using the Texas abortion law as fodder in elections in other states.

Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom warned that abortion rights in California could be rolled back had he lost Sept. 14 recall.

"Texas has effectively banned a woman’s right to choose. Passed the worst voter suppression law in the country. And continue to push anti-science COVID laws that put lives at risk," Newsom tweeted on Sept. 1. "This could be the future of CA if we don't vote NO on the Republican Recall by 9/14. VOTE."

Newsom ended up winning handily, beating polling averages and trouncing the GOP-led recall effort by a historic margin.

Meanwhile, Virginia's Democratic gubernatorial nominee Terry McAuliffe has also invoked the Texas abortion ban in his race, warning that his GOP opponent, Glenn Youngkin, could turn back abortion rights in Virginia. Youngkin was already caught on camera telling activists that he couldn't reveal his true stance on abortion rights because it would hurt him with independent voters.

"I'm up against a guy who says he'll go on 'offense' to ban abortion," McAuliffe tweeted earlier in September. "We can't let Glenn Youngkin bring the Texas abortion ban here to Virginia."

And since the Texas law went into effect, Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy has also made abortion rights an issue in his upcoming reelection bid in New Jersey.

"With the Texas law going into effect today and the specter of the Supreme Court decision on reproductive rights in Mississippi this October, there has been no more urgent time to stand up for the rights of women in the last fifty years," Murphy's campaign manager told the New Jersey Globe. "[GOP nominee] Jack Ciattarelli should reverse his decision and stand with New Jersey women and their right to access health care."

Other election experts say Texas's law could ignite Democratic voters to turn out in force during the 2022 midterms. In previous wave elections when Democrats lost seats, in both 2010 and 2014, Democrats lost in part because their base failed to show up at the polls.

"A disproportionate dip in midterm turnout compared with Republicans would be a recipe for disaster for Democrats. That's how electoral waves develop," Nathan Gonzalez, a nonpartisan political handicapper with Inside Elections and a Roll Call columnist, wrote in a Sept. 9 piece.

He added, "The Texas law makes the hypothetical issue of abortion and the Supreme Court tangible, relevant and urgent to base Democrats. Enthusiastic Democratic turnout in 2022 may not be enough to save their majorities, but it would likely help avoid a wipeout."

The 2022 midterms are still a ways off. But Rothenberg thinks Democrats have a chance to use this as an effective strategy to hurt Republicans next fall.

"It has the potential to give Democrats a message that can be effective in defining the Republicans," he said. 

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.