HENRICO, Virginia (AP) – When Planned Parenthood canvassers stopped by Megan Ortiz, the 32-year-old therapist was getting ready to go out and was too distracted to speak for long.
But after they left, she changed her mind. She hopped in her minivan and roamed the streets of her suburban Richmond neighborhood until she found the canvassers. “I want to volunteer for you!” she proclaimed, eliciting cheers.
What made him change his mind? Texas, she said.
âIt’s really scary,â Ortiz said, of the state’s new law that bans most abortions. âIt is important that the voice of women is heard.
Democrat Terry McAuliffe has spent months trying to get Virginia voters to focus on abortion, as part of his effort to boost the Democratic turnout he needs to win the closely watched state governor’s race. Referring to Texas law, and with a predominantly conservative Supreme Court dealing with a case that could overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade of 1973, McAuliffe and his allies argue that the issue may matter more now than at any time in a half. century.
But breaking through with Democratic voters who are weary of politics in general and more focused on the pandemic, the fragile economy and other issues has been a struggle. McAuliffe’s battle with former Republican business executive Glenn Youngkin appears to be heading for the wire, even in Virginia, where Republicans have not won a statewide job for 12 years and women in particular those in the suburbs have turned away from the GOP en masse during the Trump administration.
If abortion rights protection doesn’t get past the din of issues like COVID restrictions for schools in this Democratic-leaning state, that doesn’t bode well for a party hoping the issue can turn out to be. nationally decisive to maintain its tight control of Congress over the next halfway point of the year.
“This is something voters across the country should be afraid of,” said Jessica Floyd, president of American Bridge 21st Century, the opposition research arm of the Democratic Party.
Although she argued that McAuliffe’s plans are better on several fronts, Floyd also conceded, âWe know women are tired after Trump. We are all focused on our families.
A Monmouth University poll released late last month found abortion tracking the economy, pandemic and education on the priority list for voters in Virginia. The same poll found that McAuliffe had a 40-32% advantage on the issue.
Planned Parenthood Virginia Advocates, the state’s leading reproductive rights organization, said it recruited fewer volunteers this cycle.
“It has been extremely difficult to recruit people,” said Lucy Hartman, director of the group’s organization, who noted that part of the problem was the outbreak of the delta variant of the coronavirus this summer.
NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia, another abortion rights group, tweeted that it was still looking for people to knock on doors before election day – and pay canvassers $ 25 an hour.
Democrats know him well. For years, opponents of the right to abortion have been more effective in mobilizing voters around this one issue, creating a passionate divide between the two sides.
A Gallup poll released last year found that those who oppose abortion are more likely to make it the deciding factor in elections, 30% to 19% compared to supporters of the right to abortion.
These anti-abortion voters include Andrea Pearson, a 59-year-old office manager from Leesburg, about 30 miles from Washington, who said she had her first abortion at 18. This left her so emotionally devastated that she struggled with drugs and alcohol and eventually had two more abortions, she said. Opposing abortion today is Pearson’s number one issue in the vote.
âI know what I’ve been through,â she says. âWomen deserve better.
But Pearson is not in the majority. VoteCast, an Associated Press survey of the 2020 electorate, found that 61% of voters in Virginia said abortion should be legal in at least most cases, similar to the national percentage. Separately, 69% said Roe v. Wade should be left as is, versus 29% saying the decision should be overturned.
The fate of that case will be put to the test in December, when the Supreme Court hears arguments over Mississippi’s request to quash Roe v. Wade – who held that the US Constitution protects the right of a pregnant woman to choose to abort without undue government restrictions. The court has previously refused to block the application of Texas law, which prohibits abortions once heart activity is detected. It usually takes about six weeks before some women know they are pregnant.
“There is a sense in which it seems very likely that the court will overthrow Roe,” said Mary Ziegler, a professor at Florida State University College of Law, who studies the history of US abortion law. This could leave it to state legislatures and governors to decide abortion laws.
McAuliffe tried to hammer home this message. Shortly after Texas law came into effect last month, he visited an abortion clinic and produced numerous advertisements proclaiming himself a âbrick wallâ in defense of reproductive rights.
âFor 50 years, this has been a guess. We always thought the Supreme Court would protect Roe v. Wade, âMcAuliffe said of the possibility of the case being called off at a recent rally with First Lady Jill Biden in Henrico, a community of manicured estates and deep forests northwest of downtown. Richmond. “But now, with Trump’s Supreme Court, everything has changed.”
Youngkin, who tries to appeal to suburban moderates and independents, is not eager to talk about the issue.
He said he would not have signed onto Texas law, and said he supports a ban at 20 weeks pregnant. But in a recent AP interview, he did not respond to whether he supported the earlier restrictions. The question sparked an explosion from a Youngkin campaign strategist, who opposed it as moot, and then fled.
Youngkin said he believes Virginians oppose McAuliffe’s “extreme views on abortion.”
But he also admitted that abortion puts him on the defensive. In July, a liberal activist recorded it suggesting that strong opposition to abortion could cost him votes, but things would be different if he won.
“When I’m governor and have a majority in the House, we can start to go on the offensive,” Youngkin said, referring to possible GOP gains in the parliamentary election. “But as a campaign subject, unfortunately, that won’t win me the independent votes I need to get.”
Instead, Youngkin focused on protecting “parental rights”, exploiting activists’ frustrations. on COVID classroom safety measures, school curricula they see as non-U.S. transgender rights policies and districts.
Katy Talento, who works in health care and lives in Lessburg, said McAuliffe has relied on abortion because he cannot defend Democratic positions on schools, the economy and “COVID tyranny. “.
âThe Democratic base is demoralized, so of course what does he think is going to piss them off and kick them out?â Talento asked. “It’s going to scare her base that Virginia is going to turn into Texas.”
Whitehurst reported from Salt Lake City, Utah. Associated Press writers Hannah Fingerhut and Sarah Rankin contributed to this report.