At the Democratic National Committee on Oct. 18, President Joe Biden delivered remarks encouraging voters to elect more Democrats in the upcoming 2022 midterm election.
If the Democrats win a congressional majority, Biden pledged to codify Roe v. Wade, a nearly 50-year-old decision that protected a women’s right to abortion until it was overturned by the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization in June. As it stands, Democrats control the House with 224 representatives as opposed to 214 Republican representatives and the House is split down the middle.
However, Terri Bimes, a UC Berkeley assistant teaching professor of political science, doubts this promise will become a reality, regardless of the election outcome.
“It’s going to be hard for the codification of abortion to get past the Republican House … even with a Democratic majority in both houses if that majority is very slim,” Bimes said. “I think it’s more a campaign issue than a realistic hope that this legislation is going to get passed.”
Bimes added that through his promise, Biden is attempting to get constituents in swing states such as Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Georgia to vote.
Though Biden has yet to pinpoint a specific piece of legislation that would codify Roe, Lindsay Parham, the executive director of The Wallace Center for Maternal, Child and Adolescent health, said it may be a bill similar to The Reproductive Freedom For All Act.
If passed, the bill would have codified the reproductive rights outlined in Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, preventing states from imposing an “undue burden” on individuals seeking to terminate their pregnancy and protecting contraception access.
“Codifying that law would certainly remove the bans and restrictions in some of the states that have been put in place since June but they’re going to leave in place a lot of the smaller but equally detrimental barriers,” Parham said.
Such barriers may include administrative requirements imposed on abortion clinics, limits on which doctors can perform abortions and other barriers for people who already have difficulty accessing health care.
National sentiment towards abortion rights has been changed considerably since Roe v. Wade; half of Americans polled in 1973 opposed abortion, according to a Gallup Poll taken at the time. Now, nearly 50 years post-Roe, 62% of Americans believe abortion should be legal in all or most cases, according to a Pew Research Center survey released in July.
Additionally, as of 2020, the Center for American Women and Politics reported that women make up a larger percentage of voters than men but lack representation in legislative bodies.
“Constituents might think of this from a strictly political standpoint, that it’s a way of coaxing them into the election, but I also believe that certain groups like women, the LGBT community, and other people who are very cognizant of losing their rights might also feel like it’s not simply performative,” said Sylvia Guendelman, a professor emerita of campus’s school of public health and the founder and advisory committee chair of The Wallace Center. “We really do need to keep the abortion issue quite alive and in our minds”.