Before the current term ends in June, the United States Supreme Court may decide to weaken – or overturn – the landmark Roe v Wade decision which recognized a right to abortion nationally.
Should that occur, what impact would that have on the Pennsylvania political landscape entering a general election season that has open seats for the governor’s office and the U.S. Senate?
According to Sabato’s Crystal Ball, Pennsylvania is one of seven states that is most likely to see political tensions escalate should Roe v Wade be sidelined.
The Supreme Court appears poised to overturn or at least significantly weaken the landmark abortion ruling, decided 49 years ago. Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, told NPR that even if the justices roll back Roe, groups like hers that seek to reduce and ultimately end abortion still want Americans to come to a consensus on the issue, even if it won’t be a national agreement.
“But that’s what consensus is, it’s the consensus of people living in [each] state,” she said. “So it will be different in Alabama than in North Carolina, which will be different from the state of Washington, from Texas.”
And that could energize Democratic voters around the country, but particularly in Pennsylvania, Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, New Hampshire, North Carolina, and Wisconsin, says veteran political analyst Lou Jacobson.
For the last seven years, Pennsylvania Democratic governor Tom Wolf has stopped Republican attacks on abortion rights at almost every turn, vetoing every bill that has crossed his desk. Now that his term-limited time is up, Dems are turning to Attorney General Josh Shapiro, their favored gubernatorial candidate, to be a similar “brick wall.”
At least one GOP candidate for the office – Doug Mastriano – has gone on the record stating that he would move to restrict abortion rights if elected. And with the Republican-dominated General Assembly, a like-minded occupant of the governor’s mansion could make that a reality.
Perhaps the most promising avenue for Democratic gains is that abortion politics could energize the same types of voters that Democrats have increasingly been winning: suburbanites, including women, who a decade or two ago might have voted Republican.
However, in a time of war in Ukraine, record-high gas prices, inflation and a perceived struggling economy, will voters cast their ballots based on one issue alone?
According to data compiled by the Pew Research Center, public support for abortion rights among Pennsylvania voters remains strong. Among the seven battleground states, the Keystone State is one of three where support for legal abortion in “most or all cases” has consistently stood between 51 and 54 percent, writes Jacobson.
In the recent Franklin & Marshall College poll, 84 percent of respondents thought abortion should be legal under certain or any circumstance, while just 13 percent said illegal under any circumstance.
Are those numbers enough to offset the traditional pattern of unfavorable midterms for the party controlling the White House?
“I’m skeptical that the boost they would get would offset the cyclical advantages that the GOP carries into the midterms here,” said Muhlenberg College political scientist Chris Borick.
And in the end, Dr. Jamila Perritt argues that public opinion should not even matter that much. The president and CEO of the abortion-rights advocacy group Physicians for Reproductive Health told NPR, “When you need access (to abortion care), the opinion of other people, who know nothing about your life, means little.”