Navigating Abortion Discourse in the 2024 Election

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Tanier Uribe

Every second the 2024 US presidential election is getting closer. This upcoming holiday season, many Republicans fear that the reversal of Roe v. Wade will fuel Democratic wins in the 2024 election.

Recently, voters threw their support behind abortion rights in Ohio, Virginia and Kentucky. Now, Democrats look to springboard off those wins by using the issue to drive turnout and shape next year’s races for the White House and Congress.

Republican leaders cheered after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, but since then, they have come to realize that going too far on abortion restrictions can be a political liability. The Dobbs decision and subsequent state-level laws restricting abortion have galvanized abortion rights supporters. Every state ballot measure on abortion rights since Dobbs has come out in favor of abortion rights, even in red states like Kansas, Kentucky and Ohio.

Ohio provided a clear snapshot of the issue’s importance just over a year after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the nation’s right to abortion. Voters in the Republican leaning state resoundingly approved the amendment to Ohio’s constitution to guard abortion access.

Democrats have capitalized on the issue in Virginia, using it to retake control of the legislature. Voters also reelected Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear to a second term as governor of  the right leaning state of Kentucky after he made abortion rights central to his campaign.

In Virginia, Republicans led by Governor Glenn Youngkin pushed for a 15-week abortion ban. This push for a stricter 15-week abortion ban (the state currently has a 26-week limit), may have been one of the reasons that Republicans lost control of Virginia’s House and could not secure the Senate.
An adviser involved in Youngkin’s 2023 campaign said that if Republicans had not proceeded with this campaign, they would have lost by more. He argued that they came up short because of the Democrats’ financial advantage and messaging that Republicans would go further than a 15-week ban if handed control.

“You have to push the attack aside and you have to go on offense aggressively. We did that. And it’s what kept these races close,” the adviser said.

The outcomes of these state measures and elections may force Republican presidential candidates to attempt a balancing act on the issue of abortion.

For example, former President Donald Trump, the leading Republican candidate, has dodged the question of whether he supports a federal abortion ban. He also has not mentioned what kind of gestational limits he would back.

“It’s a wake up call for Republicans to figure out what the right messaging and the right policy is on abortion because whatever they have now is not popular with voters,” said John Feehery, a Republican strategist.

“Republicans have to stop pushing policies that make people believe they are trying to ban abortion. They need to try and find a middle ground right now,” Feehery added.

Democratic strategists say they have plenty of material to hurt Mr. Trump on the abortion issue. Not only did he appoint the three Supreme Court Justices who provided the critical votes to overturn Roe, he has a history of making inflammatory comments on the issue.

“These races end this claim that these red states are all in on Trump — that there’s no nuance,” said Pat Dennis, the president of American Bridge, the Democratic Party’s clearinghouse for opposition research. “Trump has extraordinary weakness here.”

It remains unclear if Democrats will be victorious in 2024 in their quest to restore abortion rights. The 2024 race will be the first post-Roe presidential election, sending both parties into uncharted political terrain. The impact of abortion may be one of the leading decisions in next year’s presidential contest.

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