Facing critical races for governor and U.S. Senate, Democratic hopefuls in Wisconsin hope their support for abortion rights in light of a Supreme Court ruling that overturned Roe v. Wade can overcome the headwinds of a midterm election expected to hold Republicans. favor. But there is one key group that may not mobilize their strategies: black voters.
A problem with strong support from white Democrats is more complicated in the black community, especially among churchgoers who have more conservative views on abortion. The subject is so charged that most organizers don’t bring it up.
“At the Black Baptist church alone, that would split us in two,” said David Liners, executive director of WISDOM, a faith-based organizing group with a nationwide presence, when asked why his group doesn’t organize around abortion. Karen Royster, spokeswoman for Milwaukee-based Souls to the Polls, called abortion a “taboo” in church circles, making it difficult for faith leaders to do anything about it.
Other groups, such as Black Leaders Organizing Communities, “will not proactively raise the issue” as they reach out to voters, but will discuss it if it arises, said Angela Lang, BLOC executive director.
It’s an issue that will receive even more attention after a decisive statewide vote in heavily Republican Kansas last week in favor of protecting access to abortion, bolstering Democratic hopes the issue could take voters elsewhere. stimulate.
AP VoteCast shows that, in general, in the 2020 presidential election, black voters were more likely than white or Hispanic voters to say that abortion should normally be legal. But among those who identified with or gravitated 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 woman from Milwaukee who is black, supports Democrats and supports abortion rights. She said she is afraid to discuss the issue with friends because she is occasionally surprised to learn that some of them are anti-abortionists.
“They’re still going to vote Democrat even if they don’t agree with abortion,” she said.
Democratic government leader Tony Evers, who won the election by just over 1 percentage point four years ago, said he is not worried about voters’ enthusiasm. He has noted that he has vetoed nine bills from the Republican-controlled legislature that would have restricted access to abortion. At a press conference, he expressed confidence that the issue will lead him to reelection.
“I don’t think there will be any problems,” Evers said when asked if he thought voters with differing views on abortion might not be motivated to support him.
Doctors in Wisconsin have stopped giving abortions after the Supreme Court ruling over an 1849 ban that Republican lawmakers have said they want to update. Anti-abortion groups have said they will work to clarify the law to defend against challenges.
State Senator 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 groups go door-to-door talking about abortion rights, though black women are more likely than any other group to have an abortion, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Wisconsin Democratic Party engagement teams, which work directly with voters of color year-round, prefer to have conversations where voters lead 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 that focuses on issues important to black women, favors a more direct approach. The key is to focus on the idea that “we must have autonomy from the state,” she said — a message that resonates enough with a historically marginalized community to overcome personal and religious views on abortion morality.
“The framing of our messages is that we cannot go back, only forward. Civil rights were won for all of us,” Cherry-Donaldson said.
But her group isn’t in Wisconsin this year, concentrating its efforts in seven other states where they’ve been able to staff staff 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 about things like crime and voting rights rather than focusing on a particular problem such as abortion.
“There’s not much single-issue voting among Democrats in general, but especially among black women, who have been more or less the backbone of Democratic turnout over the last decade,” Shah said.
The GOP’s strategy and message to reach black voters about abortion will be the same in the medium term as it has been for decades.
“What we will do is explain the excessive – I would say even skewed – access to abortion that is being forced on African American women,” said Gerard Randall, president of the African American Council of the Wisconsin Republican Party.
“They will certainly hear a similar message of restraint when it comes to access to abortion from the pulpits in many of their churches,” he said.
Still, Wisconsin Democrats see the issue as key to winning both the governor’s race and the US Senate race this fall.
Polls by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research show that most people in the United States want Congress to pass legislation guaranteeing access to legal abortion nationwide and that an overwhelming majority also believe states should allow abortion in specific cases, including for a woman’s health and for rape.
Democratic frontrunner in the Wisconsin Senate race, Lieutenant Governor Mandela Barnes, who is black, emphasizes access to abortion as a civil right. In his latest television commercial, Barnes, who grew up in Milwaukee, and his mother talk about her decision to terminate a complicated pregnancy. LaJuan Barnes emphasized that she had a choice: “It was my decision, not some politicians’s.”
Harm Venhuizen is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a national, not-for-profit service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on classified issues. Follow Harm on Twitter.