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Democrats: Abortion rights still motivating voters two years after Dobbs

GOP expected to try to keep focus on immigration and the border

DCCC Chair Suzan DelBene, D-Wash., speaks with CQ Roll Call at the House Democrats 2024 Issues Conference in Leesburg, Va., on Thursday.
DCCC Chair Suzan DelBene, D-Wash., speaks with CQ Roll Call at the House Democrats 2024 Issues Conference in Leesburg, Va., on Thursday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

LEESBURG, Va. — House Democrats are making the case that when voters go to the ballot box, they will continue to vote on abortion rights, even if other issues are more the flavor of the moment.

“There’s no more pressing issue than the fight for reproductive freedom wherever we travel across the country, whoever we talk to. Abortion is top of mind, for our constituents and for voters,” Minority Whip Katherine M. Clark, D-Mass., said Thursday at the House Democrats’ retreat. “Millions of people are suffering under the brutality of MAGA abortion bans and those in states that still have protected abortion access, are scared of the GOP’s march to a national abortion ban.”

“There is a clear image here, that the American people understand and that is the image of women whose lives have been threatened, whose fertility has been ended because they couldn’t in this country in 2024 get the health care they needed,” Clark told reporters Thursday when asked about how Democrats compete to keep the focus on abortion, as the GOP works to keep immigration and border security as voters’ top concerns.

The Democratic position on issues like abortion rights and access to contraception continues to resonate, even in polls that are otherwise unfavorable to President Joe Biden on issues like the economy and fitness, party leaders said.

“People are absolutely and understandably concerned about Republicans pushing for a national abortion ban. And so it is impacting folks in states where there’s been action in the state, but also in states that support reproductive rights,” Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chair Suzan DelBene, D-Wash., said in an interview. “People are absolutely concerned about what Republicans are doing and they’ve shown it [at] the ballot box over and over and over again since November of 2022.”

The Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision in 2022, which overturned the precedent that made abortion legal in every state, helped to hold down Democrats’ losses in the midterm elections that year. The party now hopes it will offset the low approval ratings voters give Biden, who was scheduled to address the House Democrats as their late afternoon keynote on Thursday.

Rep. Jasmine Crockett, D-Texas, said in an interview that the key to the election may be which issue generates the most enthusiasm.

“I think that anecdotally, we see that even if there is a gap in who people trust more on the economy, versus on repro, I think the enthusiasm for repro is outweighing a lot. We’ve seen that in Kansas. We’ve seen that in Ohio,” Crockett said, pointing to states that voted to protect abortion rights.

Crockett highlighted several states where abortion-related measures will be on the ballot in 2024, as well as the ongoing effort to collect signatures in Florida. The Sunshine State is poised to have a ballot initiative this year that would limit government interference related to abortion. The Florida Supreme Court held oral arguments about the exact language on Wednesday.

“I think that seeing results that none of us predicted in some of these very red places shows us that the enthusiasm — and that’s what it takes when it’s cold outside — when you’re in a state that is doing everything that they can to keep you from the ballot … by shutting down polling locations, it’s enthusiasm that wins the day,” Crockett said. “And so while your opinion may be … this guy is better for the economy, is that really going to drive you especially when, even when you’re watching Fox News, they have to admit that the economy itself is actually doing really well?”

Vice President Kamala Harris, who appeared at the conference Wednesday afternoon, focused on a number of issues, “including threats against democracy and attacks on reproductive freedom” according to a White House official. Members said that the appearance included discussion of the vice president’s ongoing tour focused on abortion access, which made a stop Tuesday in Savannah, Ga., where she described former President Donald Trump as “the architect of this health care crisis.”

Sandhya Raman contributed to this report.

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