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What does the fight over abortion rights look like in 2024?

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

This week, Democrats are launching an abortion rights campaign to mark the 51st anniversary of Roe v. Wade. That's the U.S. Supreme Court decision that guaranteed the right to abortion in the U.S. That ruling was overturned in 2022. And since then, in some states, getting an abortion has become almost impossible. The new campaign will include speeches by President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, along with ads featuring women who've been negatively impacted by abortion bans. Now for more on the role reproductive rights will play in this year's election, I'm joined now by Dr. Raegan McDonald-Mosley. She's an obstetrician and gynecologist who serves as CEO of Power to Decide. That's a nonprofit that supports access to abortion and other types of reproductive health care. Doctor, since Roe v. Wade was overturned, how have the politics around reproductive rights changed in the U.S.?

RAEGAN MCDONALD-MOSLEY: So much has changed regarding access to abortion and the politics around abortion. It has become so much harder for people to access care. And people are confused and feeling stigmatized by the laws. But it's also really important to remember that the crisis in access to abortion care did not begin with the Dobbs decision. For decades, we've seen an increase in medically unnecessary restrictions that have made abortion care harder for people to access in certain states. Moreover, long-standing restrictions on insurance coverage for abortion care have also made care out of reach for people in our communities who struggle to make ends meet. So Roe was never enough to ensure that people had equitable access to quality abortion care and services. But, of course, now, without the protections of Roe, so much has been harder. And it's - now abortion is banned or restricted within half of the country. And people are having a really hard time navigating the journey.

MARTÍNEZ: Yeah, how hard is it becoming for people to get an abortion now?

MCDONALD-MOSLEY: People are having to travel hundreds of miles out of state, and it's important to know that most people who have abortions are already parents, right? So they have to arrange for childcare for their children, leave the state, take time off from work and spend precious resources that they may not have. This is really unjust. And what's worse, it's worsening the maternal health care crisis in our country.

MARTÍNEZ: How big of an issue do you think abortion rights will be in this election year? Because we're seeing polls that show the economy, crime and immigration are among the top issues for voters.

MCDONALD-MOSLEY: Yeah. I mean, Americans have been forced to reckon with the loss of basic rights to abortion in nearly half the country, and they don't like what they're seeing. Abortion access and reproductive rights is going to be a high priority for voters this year. The midterm elections and recent ballot initiatives show that people are not happy with the attacks on reproductive health care. Each of the seven statewide ballot initiatives about reproductive rights since 2022 has resulted in a victory for abortion rights, so we're likely going to see this become an even bigger issue in the upcoming election.

MARTÍNEZ: Is there anything Democrats need to do, Doctor, to maybe change their messaging on abortion rights?

MCDONALD-MOSLEY: You know, I'm pleased to see that this is becoming, you know, more of an issue in that more politicians are talking about this and putting this issue front and center. And my sense is that the Biden administration is putting this issue in the forefront because it's not only a winning issue. It's also an important issue of basic human rights. People see the injustice and the lack of dignity that people have been subjected to when they don't have access to abortion care in their own community. They're hearing the stories about life-threatening and total unnecessary medical traumas that are the direct result of abortion bans and restrictions. And they're really disgusted with what they're seeing. They're appalled that this is what it has come to in our country.

MARTÍNEZ: And quickly, how do you see this issue playing out among Republican candidates and Republican voters?

MCDONALD-MOSLEY: Yeah. I mean, I think this is going to be a really tough issue for Republican candidates to thread if they're in support of a total abortion ban because there's been increased public opinion for abortion, particularly in the last couple of years. And so, you know, a federal ban would mean that in states like Maryland, where I live and practice, that people wouldn't be able to have access to this life-saving care.

MARTÍNEZ: Doctor, thank you. That's Dr. Raegan McDonald-Mosley, an OB-GYN, CEO of the nonprofit Power to Decide. Thank you, Doctor.

MCDONALD-MOSLEY: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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