DES MOINES — Rep. Cindy Axne has been running television ads casting her GOP rival Zach Nunn as an extremist on abortion, betting it will galvanize Democrats in a tough reelection fight in Iowa’s 3rd Congressional District.
Other Democrats running in hard-fought races across the country are similarly trying to tap into the anger over the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that guaranteed a nationwide right to abortion.
Rep. Abigail Spanberger is running an ad warning voters in Virginia’s 7th Congressional District that her GOP rival Yesli Vega “cheered the Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade” and downplayed the chances of rape resulting in pregnancy.
Rep. Kim Schrier of Washington has a television spot in which she says as a “doctor and mother” she is outraged at Republican politicians “that want to ban all abortion with no exceptions for rape, incest or the life of the mother.”
These Democrats who are going big on abortion are all among the party’s most at-risk incumbents.
For her part, Ms. Axne is vowing to protect the right to abortion. She is running a campaign ad in between breaks of local newscasts that feature video clips from a GOP debate in which Mr. Nunn and his rivals raised their hands signaling their belief that abortions should be illegal in all circumstances and without exceptions.
“Even in the case of rape, even in the case of incest, even if a woman’s life is in danger — who will take away a woman’s right to make her own decisions, regardless of the circumstances?” the narrator says in the ad. “Zach Nunn.”
Mr. Nunn says he backs “exceptions for horrific circumstances like rape, incest and fetal abnormalities,” and he says he has a legislative record to prove it.
In this way, the battle over abortion rights has intensified — though mostly in swing districts — since the high court in June kicked the issue back to the voters and state legislatures.
The ruling was a monumental victory for the pro-life movement that sees abortion as a stain on the moral fabric of the nation.
For the left, it was an attack on women’s autonomy and a call to action. That has given Democrats a dose of hope in an election season where they face major headwinds because of the economy, inflation and crime.
Since the ruling, polls show a majority of voters disagree with the Supreme Court and want abortion to be legal in most cases.
Former Vice President Mike Pence, one of the country’s most prominent pro-life voices, said the Supreme Court ruling extends beyond politics and offers a “profound opportunity for the country to really affirm our commitment to life.”
“Those of us who are standing for life today will enjoy the appreciation of millions of Americans in this election, the next election and beyond,” he told The Washington Times in a recent interview.
Recent elections suggest the issue of abortion has legs.
The latest barometer for post-Roe abortion politics played out in the Aug. 23 special election in New York’s 19th Congressional District. Democrat Pat Ryan emerged victorious in the hotly contested race against Republican Marc Molinaro.
Mr. Molinaro ran on the economy, inflation and crime, while Mr. Ryan seized on the abortion issue, issuing campaign signs that read “CHOICE IS ON THE BALLOT.”
President Biden has called on Congress to pass a law to restore nationwide abortion rights, though there is zero chance it succeeds in the narrowly divided House and Senate.
The Supreme Court ruling is mobilizing voters. A recent Pew Research poll found the percentage of registered voters who say the issue of abortion will be very important in the midterm election has jumped to 56% from 43% in March.
“Virtually all of the increase has come among Democrats: 71% of Democratic and Democratic-leaning registered voters rate abortion as very important; fewer than half (46%) said this in March,” the poll found. “By contrast, views among Republicans and GOP leaners have shown almost no change since then (41% now, 40% then).”
In Iowa, Democratic activists say the court’s decision has energized voters from across the political spectrum who support woman’s rights.
“People just really want to keep the government out of the bedroom,” John Neiderbach, 65, said at the Iowa State Fair, where he was volunteering at the Democratic Party booth, and encouraging passersby to sign a pro-choice petition. “People fear reproductive rights are under direct challenge.”
• Seth McLaughlin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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