Democrats are mobilizing around abortion. Are they reaching black voters?
Facing critical races for governor and U.S. Senate, Democratic hopefuls in Wisconsin are hoping their support for abortion rights will come up against a Supreme Court decision that overturned Roe v. Wade can weather the headwinds of a midterm election that has long been expected to favor Republicans. But there is one key group their strategies may not engage: black voters.
A problem with strong support from white Democrats is more complicated in the black community, especially among followers who hold more conservative views on abortion. The subject is so heavy that most community organizers avoid talking about it.
“In the Black Baptist Church alone, that would split us in two,” said David Liners, executive director of WISDOM, a statewide faith-based organizing group, when asked why his group doesn’t stand up. not organize around abortion. Karen Royster, spokesperson for Milwaukee-based Souls to the Polls, called abortion a “taboo” in religious circles, making it difficult for religious leaders to do any kind of work around it.
Other groups, like Black Leaders Organizing Communities, “won’t proactively raise the issue” during voter education, but will discuss it if it comes up, said BLOC executive director Angela Lang.
It is a problem forced to get even more focus After a decisive statewide vote in heavily Republican Kansas last week in favor of protecting abortion access, Democrats hope the issue could galvanize voters elsewhere.
AP VoteCast shows that overall, black voters in the 2020 presidential election were more likely than white or Hispanic voters to say abortion should generally be legal. But among those who identify with or lean toward the Democratic Party, things looked different: White Democrats were more likely than Black or Hispanic Democrats to say abortion should be legal in most or all cases, 88% to 77% to 76%.
Valerie Langston, a 64-year-old black woman from Milwaukee, supports Democrats and supports abortion rights. She said she was afraid to bring up the issue with friends because she was sometimes surprised to learn that some of them are against abortion.
“They’re still going to vote Democrat even if they don’t agree with abortion,” she said.
Democratic Gov. Tony Evers, who won the election four years ago by just over a percentage point, said he was not worried about voter enthusiasm. He noted that he had vetoed nine bills from the Republican-controlled Legislature that would have restricted abortion access. At a press conference, he said he was convinced that the issue bring it to re-election.
“I don’t think there will be any problems,” Evers said when asked if he thinks voters with varying opinions on abortion might not be motivated to support him.
Wisconsin doctors stopped performing abortions after Supreme Court ruling due to an 1849 ban that Republican lawmakers said they wanted to update. Anti-abortion groups have said they will work to clarify the law in order to defend against challenges.
State Sen. La Tonya Johnson, a black Democrat who represents a majority black district in Milwaukee, noted that many voters are focused on economic concerns. She said she hasn’t seen any groups going door-to-door talking about abortion rights, even though black women are more likely than any other group to get an abortion, data shows. from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Wisconsin Democratic Party engagement teams who work directly with voters of color year-round prefer to take conversations where voters take them, spokeswoman Iris Riis said. When it comes to abortion, “it’s not the only thing we talk to voters about, but we talk about it,” she said.
Shakya Cherry-Donaldson, executive director of 1000 Women Strong, a national political organizing group focused on issues that matter to black women, favors a more direct approach. The key is to focus on the idea that “we need to have autonomy from the state”, she said – a message that resonates enough with a historically marginalized community to overcome personal opinions and nuns on the morality of abortion.
“The framing of our message is that we cannot go back, only forward. Civil rights have been won for all of us,” Cherry-Donaldson said.
But his group is not in Wisconsin this year, focusing its efforts in seven other states where they have been able to recruit and fund their work.
Paru Shah, a political science professor at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee whose work focuses on race, ethnicity and politics, said Democrats would do well to make sure they send messages on issues such as crime and the right to vote rather than focusing on a particular issue such as abortion.
“There aren’t a lot of single-issue votes among Democrats in general, but especially among black women who have kind of been the backbone of Democratic turnout for at least the last 10 years,” said Shah.
The GOP’s strategy and messaging for reaching black voters on abortion will be the same in the medium term as it has been in decades.
“What we are going to do is explain the disproportionate – I would even say unbalanced – access to abortion that is forced on African-American women,” said Gerard Randall, chairman of the Republican Party’s African American Council. Wisconsin.
“They will certainly hear from the pulpits of many of their churches a similar message of restraint when it comes to access to abortion,” he said.
Still, Wisconsin Democrats see the issue as key to winning both the gubernatorial race and the U.S. Senate race this fall.
Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research Poll found most people in the US want Congress to pass a law guaranteeing access to legal abortion throughout the country and that overwhelming majorities also believe that states should allow abortion in specific cases, including for a woman’s health and in cases of rape.
Democratic front-runner in the Wisconsin Senate race, Lieutenant Governor Mandela Barnes, who is black, is emphasizing abortion access as a civil right. In her latest TV commercial, Barnes, who grew up in Milwaukee, and her mother talk about her decision to end a complicated pregnancy. LaJuan Barnes stresses that she was able to choose: “It was my decision, not that of some politicians.”
Harm Venhuizen is a member of the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on underreported issues. Follow Harm on Twitter.