Abortion rights triumph as conservatives 'reap what they Roe'

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Back in May 2022, in the wake of the overturning of Roe v Wade, I predicted that the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn the constitutional right to abortion would have deep political consequences. It would lead to outrage on a scale unlike anything we’ve seen in recent years, I wrote. 

I hate to say it, but I told you so. Don’t mess with our right to choose or you’ll reap sour returns at the ballot box for a generation. Or as some on Twitter have been saying, “You reap what you Roe.” 

Yet, it’s small comfort having been so right when reproductive autonomy is up for key votes so often all across America. 

I lead an organization devoted to young women’s political empowerment. And I can tell you that when we overturn established laws to interfere with reproductive choice, it’s a big deal. It’s not something those I work alongside are likely to forget in one or two election cycles. It’s not something young people are ever likely to forget, in fact. 

Sixty-five percent of Gen Z women-identifying and non-binary respondents in our recent survey identified abortion as a critical issue for them. The same number believe the Supreme Court should not have overturned Roe. Those are big, decisive numbers when it comes to swaying elections. 

Lo and behold, since last May I’ve watched the election results roll in. Last August, Kansas rejected an anti-abortion amendment to the state constitution. Last November, a swath of Roe-related election results came in during the midterms. California passed a constitutional amendment guaranteeing the right to abortion. So did Michigan and Vermont.

Kentucky rejected amending the state constitution on anti-abortion grounds, and Gov. Andy Beshear (D) was reelected in a victory for abortion rights. Montanans shut down another anti-abortion measure. 

In April, Wisconsin voters turned out in huge numbers to appoint a state Supreme Court judge. That judge, Janet Protasiewicz, was outspoken about protecting abortion on the campaign trail. Her victory delivered a stunning rebuke to those seeking to ban it in her state. 

In August, Ohio voters denied well-financed efforts to rewrite the state’s constitution. They did so to protect Election Day’s landslide vote to enshrine abortion rights. By upholding Ohio’s “Issue 1” ballot measure, Ohio’s voters won the country’s most-watched race. They did it in an off year, despite efforts to purge voter rolls in recent weeks. The Associated Press called the vote so early in the evening, I’d hardly started checking. It was decisive. 

Abortion was also a central issue in both the Pennsylvania Supreme Court race and Virginia’s legislative elections. For Virginia voters, state elections were viewed as the only way to protect abortion access. Those results were also decisive. In Pennsylvania, voters elected Dan McCaffrey, an outspoken defender of abortion rights, to the state Supreme Court. 

Some expected these races to be close, particularly in purple states. But those of us working with our young activists and organizers knew better. Looking forward, voters in Arizona, Missouri and elsewhere are likely to lean towards abortion rights next year. With many expected close races in 2024, Gen Z’s vote will have a significant impact on the outcomes. 

IGNITE’s new research — conducted between April and June — shows Gen Z women are prioritizing abortion, mass shootings and mental health at the polls. Our research also shows more than 75 percent of Gen Z have registered to vote. They’re more politically empowered than ever. Sixty-three percent of Gen Z indicated they were “absolutely certain” or “likely” to vote in 2024.

By 2024, Gen Z and Millennials will be the largest voting bloc in the country. That means young women are going to have more political power in the 2024 election than ever before. They have long memories, and they want candidates who care about their issues. Abortion, it turns out, remains a decisive one. 

We can’t underestimate young voters, and candidates must listen up.  

Sara Guillermo is CEO of IGNITE, an organization devoted to young women’s political leadership. Follow her on Twitter: @SaraGuillermo19.

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