The reason public support for same-sex marriage (and LGBTQ rights, more broadly) shifted from roughly 40 percent support in the mid-aughts to a record 70 percent last year is two-fold: 1) a generation of Americans came out in kitchen-table conversations across the country; and 2) a decade's worth of earned media educated voters about heartbreaking injustices between the enactment of same-sex marriage bans and their eventual demise at the Supreme Court in 2015.
Americans decided it just wasn't right that a human being wasn't allowed to hold the hand of their lifelong partner as they passed away in a hospital, or that a spouse was denied Social Security survivor benefits because the federal government didn't recognize their marriage.
Here's how that compares to where we stand now with abortion and why the impending fall of Roe v. Wade could have more of a lightning-bolt effect electorally: Public opinion is already squarely with the pro-choice Democratic side (no convincing necessary, as with same-sex marriage); but because Roe has been the law of the land for 50 years, most voters haven't had a chance to even imagine the consequences of its reversal.
So just as media stories served to shift public opinion on marriage equality, they will intensify the passions of pro-choice voters in the lead-up to the midterms. Most of those stories will be tragic and infuriating, with lives lost or changed irrevocably based on forced births, denial of contraception, and more.
But the stories no one is prepared for are the enforcement stories, which will be the stuff of nightmares. As Jennifer Rubin at The Washington Post writes, "The effort to investigate and enforce a law criminalizing a woman’s reproductive decisions necessarily becomes an exercise in authoritarian excess."
"In all, 22 states have trigger laws not just banning abortion, but punishing doctors and others who either perform or help facilitate abortions, ranging in sentences from one year to 15 years," writes my colleague, Joan McCarter.
Here's how some of those punitive measures soon to be enacted poll with the American public, according to a survey this week from Politico/Morning Consult.
Prison time for women who get abortions: 16 percent support, 73 percent oppose
Fines for women who get abortions: 22 percent support, 66 percent oppose
Prison time for doctors who perform abortions: 22 percent support, 68 percent oppose
Fines for doctors who perform abortions: 29 percent support, 61 percent oppose
Post-leak polling is getting clearer and clearer about the political fallout from a post-Roe ruling. The electorate is being jolted awake, pro-choice views are hardening, and, yes, the passion of reproductive rights voters appears to be exceeding that of anti-abortion voters.
All of those views and passions will be supercharged in a landscape where the media starts focusing on human impact stories—a particular strength of both journalists and the media environment in which we live (where clicks rule).
Pocketbook issues are not going away between now and November, but the post-Roe nightmare about to be unleashed on this country is sure going to give them a run for their money.
Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.
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