by Mark Thiessen, The Washington Post, July 14, 2022
The Biden administration is under fire from abortion rights activists after White House communications director Kate Bedingfield told The Post they were “out of step” with the mainstream of the Democratic Party.
She’s more correct than she realizes. Unlike the Biden administration and Democrats on Capitol Hill, most Democratic voters want to impose strict limits on abortion.
A new Harvard CAPS-Harris poll, conducted by Democratic pollster Mark Penn, finds that a 60 percent supermajority of Democrats supports restricting abortion to 15 weeks or less. What this means is that, in practice, most Democratic voters agree with Mississippi’s ban on abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, which the Supreme Court upheld when it overturned Roe v. Wade. Many would restrict abortion even further: A third of Democratic respondents would either ban abortion after six weeks of pregnancy or allow it only in cases of rape or incest. None of the restrictions they support would be allowed if Roe were still the law of the land.
But that is not the position of the Democratic Party. In the 1990s, Democrats’ position was, as Bill Clinton famously put it, that abortion should be “safe, legal and rare.” But in 2012, they expunged “rare” from the platform, and in 2016 they promised to oppose all “federal and state laws and policies that impede a woman’s access to abortion, including by repealing the Hyde Amendment,” which restricts federal funding for abortions.
Joe Biden had to renounce his 40-plus-year support for the Hyde Amendment to win the Democratic nomination in 2020. Today, the White House refuses to say whether Biden supports any limits on abortion at all. New York Democrats lit up the Freedom Tower in 2019 to celebrate the passage of a state law that removed almost all restrictions on abortion, even in the third trimester, while Illinois Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed a law repealing his state’s Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act.
How many Democrats support that? According to the Harvard-Harris poll, just 15 percent of Democrats would allow abortion at will through all nine months of pregnancy.
The rest of the country agrees with the Democratic majority. The poll finds that 72 percent would restrict abortion to 15 weeks or less. Those figures include 69 percent of men and 75 percent of women.
Just 10 percent of Americans believe abortions should be allowed at will up to nine months. In other words, the official position of the Democratic Party is not just outside the Democratic mainstream — it is outside the American mainstream.
That is not stopping left-wing abortion activists from pressing Biden to show more outrage over the Supreme Court’s decision to return abortion policy to the states — where a plurality of Americans believe it belongs. In an economic moment when many are forced to choose between buying gas or food, this makes the president appear deeply out of touch. A New York Times/Siena College poll shows that only 5 percent say abortion is the most important issue facing the country today — and many of those voters are pro-life. By contrast, the poll found that the biggest issues are, in order of importance, the economy, inflation and our divided politics.
Not only do most Americans disagree with the activists’ position on abortion, they disagree with their smash-mouth tactics. Sixty-two percent of respondents in the Harvard-Harris poll oppose allowing protesters to harass Supreme Court justices and their families in their homes. And now abortion activists are harassing conservative justices while they dine at restaurants. The group ShutDownDC tweeted that it would pay restaurant workers $50 for confirmed sightings of the conservative justices, and the bounty rises to $200 if the justices are still there 30 minutes after the message.
This incivility is hurting Biden as much as the abortion extremism is. Americans voted for Biden because he promised to heal the nation and unite the country. In his victory speech, he promised “to marshal the forces of decency,” and in his inaugural address, he promised to “end this uncivil war.” Every time his supporters make headlines by harassing a Supreme Court justice, it underscores the biggest failure of Biden’s presidency, which is his refusal to deliver on these promises.
Americans are sick and tired of incivility. And they care more about inflation than abortion. The more his radical base forces Biden to focus on abortion advocacy that’s outside the mainstream, at the expense of issues Americans care about, the more likely it is that Americans will elect a pro-life Republican majority this November.