The issue will galvanize the Democratic base. In the past, young people and women often voted at low rates during the midterms, but they now understand the loss of their individual rights.
A recent leak on abortion rights from the U.S. Supreme Court has given Democrats a cause to rally around, which could energize the party's base for the midterm elections in November.
Earlier this week, a leaked document said that the U.S. Supreme Court has voted to overturn the nearly 50-year-old decision that gave women the ability to choose to terminate a pregnancy without excessive restrictions from the government.
The groundbreaking news sent shockwaves through Washington, sparking several protests in Los Angeles, New York and Washington D.C. "Democrats until now had no real campaign plan," said Clay Ramsay, a researcher at the center for international and security studies at the University of Maryland.
"They were preparing mostly to take their licks and regroup. Now the leak of the Supreme Court draft opinion has changed the subject," away from the looming recession, the surging inflation, and the rising crime rates in big cities, Ramsay pointed out.
The issue will galvanize the Democratic base, Brookings Institution senior fellow Darrell West said, adding that, in the past, young people and women often voted at low rates during the midterms, but they "now understand the loss of their individual rights." These are core issues for young people and will help Democrats narrow what might have been a tidal wave election.
"Young voters and independent women are going to be energized," Democratic pollster Celinda Lake was quoted by local news website Axios as saying. Polls, however, indicated that the issue of abortion was not on the top of voters' minds.
A March Gallup poll placed the issue near the bottom of a list of over two-dozen other issues with which Americans are concerned. Less than 1 percent of respondents told Gallup that abortion was "the most important problem facing the country today," while it remains unclear whether the Supreme Court leak will push the issue higher on the list.
The three most important issues were the government/poor leadership (22 percent), high cost of living/inflation (17 percent), and the economy (11 percent).
As of today, abortion is still a constitutional right. Generations before us have fought to gain & protect the rights we have today. And we aren’t backing down.— Planned Parenthood Action (@PPact) May 3, 2022
Thank you for being in this fight to make sure everyone has the power to control their own bodies, lives & futures. pic.twitter.com/NdZE8T3t8d
Analysts said Democrats would maximize the impact of the leak to salvage midterms. Ford O'Connell, adjunct professor at the Graduate School of Political Management of the George Washington University, said, adding that Democrats are "trying to quickly mobilize their base."
"Chances are it's not going to stop what's going to happen in November," he pointed out, noting that the Democratic Party is still expected to take significant losses in the midterms. "But they're going to use this any way possible to minimize the bleeding."
Christopher Galdieri, assistant professor at Saint Anselm College, said he doubts the issue of abortion "outweighs the impact of inflation, particularly in swing states and districts. It will certainly help with fundraising, and gives Democrats an issue where they are by and large on the same side as public opinion. That's not nothing."
Axios reported that voters who are most passionate about abortion rights have historically been "more reliable" in terms of midterm turnout, including Black women and liberal, college-educated women. But polls also suggest it may be harder for Democrats to use the issue to turn out working-class, male or Hispanic voters.
Galdieri said it is possible that those most offended by the Supreme Court decision had already decided to vote in the midterms before the leak. "But on the other hand, if this is enough to get those suburban voters who voted blue (Democrats) in 2018 and 2020 to do the same again this year, that could make a difference in a meaningful number of races."
Electorally, the biggest impact is likely to be in places where the election was already likely to be close. Politico, a U.S. political publication that broke the leak story, wrote, "Deliberations on controversial cases have in the past been fluid."
Justices can and sometimes do change their votes as draft opinions circulate and major decisions can be subject to multiple drafts and vote-trading, sometimes until just days before a decision is unveiled, Politico noted. "The court's holding will not be final until it is published, likely in the next two months," it said.