Democrats face hard truths about abortion rights in Wisconsin midterm races

Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers speaks during a campaign event outside the State Capitol, Friday, May 27, 2022, in Madison, Wis.

Scott Bauer/AP

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Scott Bauer/AP

Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers speaks during a campaign event outside the State Capitol, Friday, May 27, 2022, in Madison, Wis.

Scott Bauer/AP

Abortion rights rallies are often filled with young activists. At a recent rally in Kenosha, Wisconsin, Lorraine Terry was an exception.

“My name is Lorraine Terry, and I’m way too old to have children,” she introduced herself. “But I have kids and granddaughters, and I can’t believe they’re taking away an advantage we’ve had for 50 years.”

Terry is 86 years old and remembers well what life was like before Roe vs. Wade.

“I lived on the first floor where a woman in my building couldn’t carry a baby – tried to abort her own baby with knitting needles and died,” Terry said. “She had two young children. So, I saw that. I saw the pain that comes when you can’t get an abortion when you need it.”

All of this makes the re-election of Democratic Gov. Tony Evers very important to her.

“We have to get Evers into the state of Wisconsin. I mean, that’s our saving grace: that if we have Republican lawmakers, he has veto power,” Terry said.

Wisconsin’s state legislative map is seen as heavily gerrymandered in favor of Republicans. So many Democrats see Evers as their only chance to stop any laws the Legislature might pass.

That makes the governor’s race an example of a truth some Democrats face midterm this year: that while they win hard-fought victories, political gains are uncertain and may simply be toeing the line against new abortion restrictions after Supreme Court overturned deer.

That could make it difficult to convince outraged voters it’s worth voting for Democrats this fall. And the race for governor in Wisconsin could be tight; it is currently classified as a toss-up by the Cook Political Report.

Wisconsin governor offers clemency to abortion providers

Evers has already been able to take action — for example, he announced he would grant clemency to abortion providers punished under the pre-Roe state ban, enacted in 1849.

This counts for Hiroshi Kanno, who came to see Evers talking to Portage.

“If he’s not re-elected, clemency doesn’t make sense to health providers. And that’s why I’m going to work really hard for him,” Kanno said. “I have six daughters, and one of them got in trouble. And if you don’t have that access, who knows what’s going to happen, you know?”

Evers continues to stress the importance of abortion rights, even as many voters focus on the economy.

“We can walk and chew gum at the same time, but I can tell you that when we start taking rights away from people, it transcends inflation. You know, inflation is important. We have to deal with it. But when you’re dealing with people’s lives, it’s really important,” he said.

In the Wisconsin Senate race, the mood is different, but similar — different, because a senator doesn’t have the political clout of a governor. Similar, because in both cases, an electoral victory means at best only modest, or potential, victories for abortion rights. A Senate victory in Wisconsin would not codify Roe unless Democrats not only control the Senate, but have 51 Democratic votes to overturn the filibuster.

Overturning the filibuster is a key Democratic argument in the Senate race

Lt. Governor Mandela Barnes is a leading Democratic Senate contender and spoke with NPR during a campaign knocker kickoff earlier this month.

“I always tell people, yes, of course I will be a vote. And that’s why we need 51 votes and we won’t get to 51 if we don’t start somewhere,” he said. declared. ” And get [Republican Senator] Ron Johnson out is the key to getting us closer to 51 votes to codify the right to choose into law by getting rid of the filibuster.”

Overturning the filibuster to protect abortion rights was a key part of Barnes’ one-knocker speech that day. Voter Joelle Beth Timm, who answered her door, said the Dobbs decision would weigh heavily on her vote.

“I’m pretty mad, and I have t-shirts that say, ‘Mind your own womb,’ so they’ve been worn a lot lately,” she said. “So, yeah, that’s absolutely an issue. Frankly, that’s probably the number one issue I’ve voted on in my life.”

Many Democrats, like Timm, are furious with the Supreme Court. And many are also angry with party leaders like Joe Biden, believing they haven’t fought hard enough for abortion rights over the years.

Back at the Evers event, Dick Baker, chairman of the Columbia County Democrats, pushed that frustration away.

“We work behind the scenes with our candidates and try to turn the tide in our favor,” he said. “And maybe we’re often accused of being too nice, but I’d rather be too nice than the alternative.”

Mayor Ann Groves Lloyd of Lodi, a town of 3,000, is much more upset about the party.

“I want the filibuster gone. You know damn well if the midterm reviews swing the other way [to the Republicans]the filibuster will be gone in a heartbeat, and they’re going to impose a ton of conservative policies,” she said. “I guess part of me just doesn’t want us to be that nice to you anymore. what we are doing.”

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