Will overturning Roe v. Wade impact this year’s midterm elections?

Demonstrator walk to a protest outside of the U.S. Supreme Court, Wednesday, May 4, 2022, in Washington. A draft opinion suggests the U.S. Supreme Court could be poised to overturn the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade case that legalized abortion nationwide, according to a Politico report released Monday. AP Photo/Alex Brandon

As tension continues building over whether the U.S. Supreme Court will overturn Roe v. Wade in the next four to five weeks, there’s one question many voters are now wondering: Will this bombshell revelation impact the 2022 midterm elections? 

Monday night, POLITICO published a leaked draft opinion that showed a majority of the High Court is poised to overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark case enshrining a constitutional right to an abortion. The Virginia-based publication reported that the draft opinion is “a full-throated, unflinching repudiation of the 1973 decision which guaranteed federal constitutional protections of abortion rights and a subsequent 1992 decision—Planned Parenthood v. Casey—that largely maintained the right.” 

Roe was egregiously wrong from the start,” Justice Samuel Alito wrote in the draft opinion,  which is not expected to be finalized until the end of May or the beginning of June. Alito went on to argue that individual states should have the right to decide whether abortion should be legal.

The next day, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren addressed a crowd of pro-choice protesters outside the Supreme Court, Vogue reports.

Portraits of Nick Beauchamp, assistant professor of political science at Northeastern and Costas Panagopoulos, head of Northeastern’s political science department. Photo by Alyssa Stone/Northeastern University and Matthew Modoono/Northeastern University

“I am angry. Angry and upset and determined. The United States can make Roe v. Wade the law of the land, they just need to do it,” Warren said. “The Republicans have been working toward this day for decades. They have been out there plotting [and] carefully cultivating these Supreme Court justices so they could have a majority on the bench who would accomplish something that most Americans do not want.” 

“This has been clearly a long-term objective. The Federalist Society, out of which many of these conservative justices were forged, has sort of explicitly had the overturning of not just these policies, but the foundations that they’re based on, in their sights for years, if not decades,” says Nick Beauchamp, assistant professor of political science at Northeastern. “Whether that will energize their side is one of those interesting questions because it’s kind of an open question, whether success actually energizes people in a lot of ways, or de-energizes them because, you know, they’re satisfied.”

On Tuesday, ABC News and the Washington Post released a poll that found that 54% of Americans support upholding Roe, and believe that abortion should be legal in all or most cases. But the poll also found that most people are unaware of recent abortion restrictions that have passed in their states.

Vox reports that if the Supreme Court does overturn Roe in the coming weeks, it’s not clear if Republicans plan to hold a public celebration. Vox reports, “While GOP candidates could tout their party’s ability to deliver on their long-running campaign promises on abortion, it’s equally plausible the decision will energize the majority of voters who believe that Roe should still stand.”

Will the Republican party celebrate, or will they hold back out of fear of energizing voters who support Roe v. Wade

“I think if it is overturned, they’d be celebrating and there’d be no hesitation or holding back of any kind. This is something they have been fighting for a very, very long time,” says Costas Panagopoulos, head of Northeastern’s political science department and editor of American Politics Research. “And I think that political considerations about energizing the other side are going to be less important than the sheer exuberance felt by a big chunk of the Republican Party.”

“Republicans just gutted Roe v. Wade, the Constitution’s guarantee of reproductive freedom, and will ban abortion in all 50 states, if they take over Congress,” said New York U.S. Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, The Guardian reports. “Only Democrats will protect our freedoms. That is now the central choice in the 2022 election.”

Is this now the central choice for this year’s midterm elections, and will it impact which way voters cast their ballots? 

“The prospect of overturning Roe v. Wade has certainly rocked the context of the 2022 midterm elections. It’s clear that the Democrats have every reason to try to make this a central theme in the upcoming election,” Panagopoulos says. “Not only because a majority of Americans nationally support abortion rights, generally speaking, but also because the other top issues do not necessarily favor Democrats in terms of the economy or inflation or other important issues in this race.” 

After the draft opinion was leaked on Monday, many Democratic lawmakers and candidates condemned the potential decision and vowed to protect access to abortion while arguing that the erosion of reproductive rights was a reason to support them in the November midterms. 

“It’s unclear whether it’ll be enough to overcome significant losses for the Democratic party. If Roe v. Wade is overturned, I do believe it will be a giant gift to the Democrats who otherwise would be fighting an uphill battle,” Panagopoulos says. “Given that there are not many very good options for Democrats to tout that might galvanize voters, this could be a high-profile enough development to really feature in the upcoming races across the country.” 

CBS News reports that Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer on Thursday announced that the Senate will vote next week on advancing legislation that would enshrine abortion rights into federal law. 

This will be the second time that the Senate will attempt to move legislation to protect abortion access nationwide. Back in February, senators failed to advance the House-approved Women’s Health Protection Act, in a 46-48 vote—well short of the 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster. The act, introduced by Rep. Judy Chu (D-Calif.) in June 2021, would have codified Roe in federal law. 

But will the majority-held Democratic Senate be able to pass the bill next week, and if so, will this help the party this upcoming election cycle?

“Congress must pass legislation that codifies Roe v. Wade as the law of the land in this country NOW,” Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) tweeted Monday night. “And if there aren’t 60 votes in the Senate to do it, and there are not, we must end the filibuster to pass it with 50 votes.”

“It’s unclear just how far Democrats are willing to go to address this possibility,” Panagopoulos says. “The possibility of overturning Roe v. Wade, one complication is that we’re not going to know if that actually happens or not, at least for several weeks, and it’s getting late in the game in terms of the election calendar to pass bold legislation of any kind, to be quite honest.”