When the Senate voted Monday to block a proposed federal ban on abortions after 20 weeks, one of the constituent groups they may have offended is one that both parties are highly interested in winning: millennial voters.
A January 2017 Quinnipiac poll asked Americans whether they would support a ban on abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy if it were enacted in their state. Nearly half — 49 percent — of 18- to 34-year-olds said they would support it. The poll found that 35- to 49-year-olds were the only age group that supported the ban more.
But the poll indicates millennials may view later-term abortions differently than abortions overall. The survey found that 35 percent of millennials think abortion should be legal in all cases, while 9 percent of millennials think abortion should be illegal in all cases.
After the ban was shot down Monday, some of the loudest criticism among antiabortion advocates came from younger Americans.
“Today, 46 senators voted AGAINST protecting preborn children from abortion after 20 weeks,” tweeted activist Lila Rose, the 29-year-old founder and president of Live Action, an antiabortion organization. “This is extreme and beyond heartless.”
But the Senate obviously didn't agree. The Pain-Capable Unborn Children Protection Act failed to earn the 60 votes needed to clear a procedural hurdle. The vote was 51 to 46.
Sen. Angus King (I-Maine) explained at a Washington Post Live event Monday that he voted against the bill because “99 percent of abortions take place before 20 weeks, so this is a solution in search of a problem.”
Kristan Hawkins, president of Students for Life of America, told The Fix Tuesday that lawmakers who opposed the ban will have to face millennial voters who disagree with them in future elections.
“Pro-life Americans would finally have a groundbreaking victory for life in the U.S. Senate if the vote passed with majority rules as it should. It’s time for a rule change,” she said. “For those Senators who voted against the bill, millennials will be asking how they can embrace such an inhumane procedure for infants who soon can survive outside the womb, and the pro-life generation will hold them accountable.”
Some younger antiabortion activists say they expect opposition to late-term abortions to attract more support among young voters, especially as younger Americans develop a broader view of what it means to be “pro-life.”
At a pep rally days ahead of the March for Life, one of the largest antiabortion gatherings in the country, Maria Lebron, 19, a sophomore at Catholic University, told The Washington Post: “I want to change the face of the pro-life movement.”
For the movement to succeed, it cannot be attached to a religion or a political party, and it cannot only be focused on the unborn, she said. “We can’t just stand for the baby, we have to stand for the mother, too.”
Nearly half a century after the historic Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision, the political climate proves that the culture battle over abortion is not over — and will continue with the youngest generation of voters. With Republicans controlling the White House and both chambers of Congress, many conservative voters may put increased pressure on their representatives to end all forms of legal abortion. And a bit of that pressure will come from millennial voters.