The abortion issue has been more or less a wash, politically, for decades. The Democrats believed that leaking the Dobbs majority opinion would help them in the midterm elections, but a great deal of polling since then suggests that abortion will continue to be a 50/50 issue, more or less, although Democrats may gain somewhat by distracting attention from their awful performance in Washington.
But then there is the question of abortion extremism. While most Americans are conflicted about the core question of when abortion is proper and should be permitted, there are collateral issues on which opinion is clear. Like the Democrats’ threatening the lives of the Supreme Court justices who disagree with them.
My law school classmate Chuck Schumer disgraced the Senate by threatening Justices Gorsuch and Kavanaugh in 2020, saying they “won’t know what hit them” if they didn’t vote his way in an abortion case, and having “released the whirlwind” they would “pay the price.” This was shameful and, as far as I know, unprecedented in American history.
Liberal activists have acted on Schumer’s threats by demonstrating in front of conservative justices’ homes. This is illegal under Virginia law and, I think, under federal law as well, but don’t hold your breath waiting for law enforcement to intervene. Justice Alito and his family have reportedly moved to an undisclosed location to escape threatened violence from the Left.
While opinion on abortion is closely divided, opinion on the Left’s thuggish tactics is not. The Trafalgar Group finds that only 16% approve of the Democrats’ tactic of publishing the justices’ home addresses and mobilizing demonstrations there, while 76% disapprove:
The same survey found 52% believing that the Biden administration’s failure to condemn these intrusions encouraged the protests to become unlawful or violent. And, of course, no one outside the far-left precincts of Antifa and its political cheerleaders like Keith Ellison is in favor of firebombing one’s political opponents.
So, to the extent that the Democrats are associated with this kind of thuggery, they likely will suffer in November. Ann Althouse is one pro-abortion commentator who recognizes the threat that violence or “violence-adjacent” behavior by liberals will hurt the pro-abortion cause.
On the other side, there is no risk that anti-abortion activists will commit arson, invade personal spaces or perpetrate violence. But there is a chance that some will try to build on the Dobbs decision to move on to other topics like gay marriage, a debate that the vast majority of Americans have no desire to re-open. Even worse was Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves suggesting that contraception might somehow be in play:
When asked if Mississippi might next target the use of contraceptives such as the Plan B pill or intrauterine devices, Reeves demurred, saying that was not what the state was focused on “at this time.”
“My view is that the next phase of the pro-life movement is focusing on helping those moms that maybe have an unexpected and unwanted pregnancy,” Reeves said. “And while I’m sure there will be conversations around America regarding [contraceptives], it’s not something that we have spent a lot of time focused on.”
It was a short step from those mealy-mouthed comments to an absurd headline in the London Times: “Republican states plot to make birth control a crime.” Stupid? Of course. But this is what the Democrats will try to do: deflect attention away from the actual import of the Dobbs decision, that abortion will again be regulated by the states, and toward a fanciful parade of horribles.
So I don’t think that the merits of the Dobbs decision per se will swing many ballots, but if voters think that one side or the other has gone off the deep end, it could matter. The difference, of course, is that the Democrats have in fact gone off the deep end and won’t be able to help themselves, while Republicans will only be perceived that way if they go out of their way to shoot themselves in the foot.