Demonstrators listened to then-President Donald Trump as he addressed the March...

Demonstrators listened to then-President Donald Trump as he addressed the March for Life in Washington, D.C., in January 2020.  Credit: AFP via Getty Images/Olivier Douliery

WASHINGTON — Former President Donald Trump’s recent declaration that abortion access is an issue best left to the states — just as Arizona and Florida courts upheld statewide abortion bans — has refocused attention on the role state abortion referendums, including one in New York, will play in the November election.

New York is among a growing number of states where the general election ballot will ask voters if abortion access and protections should be enshrined in the state constitution. The referendums could increase turnout among Democrats and voters who oppose the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2022 decision to overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade case that legalized abortion nationwide in 1973.

While New York is a reliable state for Democratic presidential candidates, the presence of abortion referendums in battleground states such as Florida, Arizona and Nevada could help move the Electoral College map in Biden’s favor in a tight election year, political analysts told Newsday.

“Abortion will literally be on the ballot,” said Republican strategist Susan Del Percio, who is based in Manhattan. “Donald Trump is in a bind, because he knows that abortion will hurt him across the country, and especially in the suburbs, which is why he tried to say, ‘Oh, it's a state issue.’ He really wanted to move the issue off the plate … He really does not want this to be a central issue because he knows it's a failure.”

Trump, in a nearly five-minute online campaign statement on April 8, seemed to acknowledge recent GOP state and congressional election losses on the issue. But he also took credit for appointing three of the conservative Supreme Court justices who overturned Roe v. Wade.

Political analysts and campaign strategists say the statement points to Trump’s vulnerability on one of the key issues shaping the rematch with Democratic President Joe Biden.

“This is the challenge on this issue — it’s very hard to try to have it both ways, because when you do that, you basically alienate everybody,” Debbie Walsh, director of the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University, told Newsday. “Donald Trump is really trying to play both sides of this. Totally wanting to take responsibility for overturning Roe, but at the same time, wanting to somehow say … it’s out of his hands now, it’s up to the states.”

The Trump campaign repeatedly has dismissed the notion that the abortion issue will cost Trump support among key voting blocs.

Trump campaign spokeswoman Karoline Leavitt in an interview on April 8 with the conservative news outlet Newsmax said voters in November “are going to be thinking about immigration and inflation, the two issues that we continue to see as the number one and two issues in this country.”

Although abortion is legal in New York, expanded protections will be on the ballot after the Democrat-majority State Legislature placed an Equal Rights Amendment to the state constitution on the 2024 ballot.

In the 2022 and 2023 state legislative sessions, lawmakers passed a measure supporting a state Equal Rights Amendment that if approved by voters would provide protection against discrimination based on ethnicity, national origin, age, disability and sex. The amendment also calls for protections against discrimination based on an individual’s pregnancy outcome, and would block any government action aimed at limiting access to reproductive health care.

Democrat-aligned groups such as New Yorkers for Equal Rights have committed to spending big to galvanize voter support around the amendment come November. The group said last year it would spend more than $20 million to rally support, including on Long Island.

“Democrats learned from the midterms that leaning into the abortion issue pays off,” said Walsh, referring to midterm victories and off-year election victories for Democrats in swing states such as Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, where Democrats campaigned heavily on the issue of abortion access.

New York, Florida and Maryland are among states with abortion referendums on the Nov. 5 ballot, but activists in other states have been collecting signatures aimed at forcing the issue on their ballots.

In Arizona, where a state court this month upheld an 1864 law banning nearly all abortions, activists have been collecting signatures to force a vote in November to amend the state constitution to make abortion a right.

Nevada, Arkansas, Colorado, Missouri, Montana and Nebraska are among other states where activists are collecting signatures to place abortion access on the November ballot.

“This is going to be an incredibly tight election, and both sides of the aisle can't afford to lose much,” Walsh said. “Can you afford to lose voters in Alabama and Mississippi over the issue of abortion? Maybe. Can you afford them in Arizona? Probably not.”

Biden defeated Trump in Arizona by a 2.2% margin in 2020, becoming the first Democrat to win the state since Bill Clinton in 1996.

Trump’s winning coalition in 2016 included religious conservatives and college-educated suburban women, according to exit polls. But in 2020 Biden gained ground with suburban women, peeling away support from Trump in key swing states.

As Trump seeks to regain support from women voters, distancing himself from calls by some conservatives for a national abortion ban, his embrace in his campaign video of the 2022 Supreme Court decision that overturned national abortion protections likely did little to attract female suburban voters, Del Percio said

“Women, especially suburban women, even if they lean right … they're going to see this and say, ‘No, this kind of extremism cannot exist,’ ” she said.

A Wall Street Journal poll conducted March 17-24 found 39% of suburban women in seven battleground states said abortion was their top issue in the presidential election. Of those women, 57% said Trump's policies were “too restrictive,” compared with 49% who said Biden's policies were “just about right.” 

Biden’s campaign seized on the Trump statement and the Arizona court decision by releasing two TV ads blaming Trump for the patchwork of abortion bans in some conservative states. One ad featured a Texas woman who nearly died after a miscarriage, after abortion access was denied her earlier in her pregnancy. The woman weeps as the words “Donald Trump did this” appear on the screen.

Even as anti-abortion groups decried Trump's April 8 statement as not backing abortion restrictions strongly enough, conservative evangelicals likely will stick with Trump in November, said Joshua Wilson, a University of Denver political science professor who has written books about the politics of abortion.

“He might anger some of the most adamant anti-abortion activists and voters, but there is little reason for them to withhold their votes,” Wilson told Newsday.

“He delivered on the appointing conservatives to the Supreme Court … they support him on other issues and they dislike the alternative so strongly that the concern over another Biden presidency is enough to motivate them to vote for Trump.”

Wilson continued: “They still see a lot of value in Trump, and they have no meaningful real alternatives to him.”

WASHINGTON — Former President Donald Trump’s recent declaration that abortion access is an issue best left to the states — just as Arizona and Florida courts upheld statewide abortion bans — has refocused attention on the role state abortion referendums, including one in New York, will play in the November election.

New York is among a growing number of states where the general election ballot will ask voters if abortion access and protections should be enshrined in the state constitution. The referendums could increase turnout among Democrats and voters who oppose the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2022 decision to overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade case that legalized abortion nationwide in 1973.

While New York is a reliable state for Democratic presidential candidates, the presence of abortion referendums in battleground states such as Florida, Arizona and Nevada could help move the Electoral College map in Biden’s favor in a tight election year, political analysts told Newsday.

“Abortion will literally be on the ballot,” said Republican strategist Susan Del Percio, who is based in Manhattan. “Donald Trump is in a bind, because he knows that abortion will hurt him across the country, and especially in the suburbs, which is why he tried to say, ‘Oh, it's a state issue.’ He really wanted to move the issue off the plate … He really does not want this to be a central issue because he knows it's a failure.”

         

  • Former President Donald Trump’s recent declaration that abortion access is an issue best left to the states has refocused attention on the role state abortion referendums will play in the November election.
  • New York is among a growing number of states where the general election ballot will ask voters if abortion access and protections should be enshrined in the state constitution.
  • The presence of abortion referendums in battleground states could help move the Electoral College map in President Joe Biden’s favor.

Trump, in a nearly five-minute online campaign statement on April 8, seemed to acknowledge recent GOP state and congressional election losses on the issue. But he also took credit for appointing three of the conservative Supreme Court justices who overturned Roe v. Wade.

Political analysts and campaign strategists say the statement points to Trump’s vulnerability on one of the key issues shaping the rematch with Democratic President Joe Biden.

“This is the challenge on this issue — it’s very hard to try to have it both ways, because when you do that, you basically alienate everybody,” Debbie Walsh, director of the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University, told Newsday. “Donald Trump is really trying to play both sides of this. Totally wanting to take responsibility for overturning Roe, but at the same time, wanting to somehow say … it’s out of his hands now, it’s up to the states.”

The Trump campaign repeatedly has dismissed the notion that the abortion issue will cost Trump support among key voting blocs.

Trump campaign spokeswoman Karoline Leavitt in an interview on April 8 with the conservative news outlet Newsmax said voters in November “are going to be thinking about immigration and inflation, the two issues that we continue to see as the number one and two issues in this country.”

State abortion referendums

Although abortion is legal in New York, expanded protections will be on the ballot after the Democrat-majority State Legislature placed an Equal Rights Amendment to the state constitution on the 2024 ballot.

In the 2022 and 2023 state legislative sessions, lawmakers passed a measure supporting a state Equal Rights Amendment that if approved by voters would provide protection against discrimination based on ethnicity, national origin, age, disability and sex. The amendment also calls for protections against discrimination based on an individual’s pregnancy outcome, and would block any government action aimed at limiting access to reproductive health care.

Democrat-aligned groups such as New Yorkers for Equal Rights have committed to spending big to galvanize voter support around the amendment come November. The group said last year it would spend more than $20 million to rally support, including on Long Island.

“Democrats learned from the midterms that leaning into the abortion issue pays off,” said Walsh, referring to midterm victories and off-year election victories for Democrats in swing states such as Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, where Democrats campaigned heavily on the issue of abortion access.

New York, Florida and Maryland are among states with abortion referendums on the Nov. 5 ballot, but activists in other states have been collecting signatures aimed at forcing the issue on their ballots.

In Arizona, where a state court this month upheld an 1864 law banning nearly all abortions, activists have been collecting signatures to force a vote in November to amend the state constitution to make abortion a right.

Nevada, Arkansas, Colorado, Missouri, Montana and Nebraska are among other states where activists are collecting signatures to place abortion access on the November ballot.

“This is going to be an incredibly tight election, and both sides of the aisle can't afford to lose much,” Walsh said. “Can you afford to lose voters in Alabama and Mississippi over the issue of abortion? Maybe. Can you afford them in Arizona? Probably not.”

Biden defeated Trump in Arizona by a 2.2% margin in 2020, becoming the first Democrat to win the state since Bill Clinton in 1996.

Trump's 2016 coalition

Trump’s winning coalition in 2016 included religious conservatives and college-educated suburban women, according to exit polls. But in 2020 Biden gained ground with suburban women, peeling away support from Trump in key swing states.

As Trump seeks to regain support from women voters, distancing himself from calls by some conservatives for a national abortion ban, his embrace in his campaign video of the 2022 Supreme Court decision that overturned national abortion protections likely did little to attract female suburban voters, Del Percio said

“Women, especially suburban women, even if they lean right … they're going to see this and say, ‘No, this kind of extremism cannot exist,’ ” she said.

A Wall Street Journal poll conducted March 17-24 found 39% of suburban women in seven battleground states said abortion was their top issue in the presidential election. Of those women, 57% said Trump's policies were “too restrictive,” compared with 49% who said Biden's policies were “just about right.” 

Biden’s campaign seized on the Trump statement and the Arizona court decision by releasing two TV ads blaming Trump for the patchwork of abortion bans in some conservative states. One ad featured a Texas woman who nearly died after a miscarriage, after abortion access was denied her earlier in her pregnancy. The woman weeps as the words “Donald Trump did this” appear on the screen.

Even as anti-abortion groups decried Trump's April 8 statement as not backing abortion restrictions strongly enough, conservative evangelicals likely will stick with Trump in November, said Joshua Wilson, a University of Denver political science professor who has written books about the politics of abortion.

“He might anger some of the most adamant anti-abortion activists and voters, but there is little reason for them to withhold their votes,” Wilson told Newsday.

“He delivered on the appointing conservatives to the Supreme Court … they support him on other issues and they dislike the alternative so strongly that the concern over another Biden presidency is enough to motivate them to vote for Trump.”

Wilson continued: “They still see a lot of value in Trump, and they have no meaningful real alternatives to him.”

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