Kaiser Family Foundation: Abortion grows as motivator for midterm voters

Abortion is a growing motivator for voters ahead of the 2022 midterms that take place next month, especially among women of reproductive age, a new poll finds. 

The Kaiser Family Foundation released a survey Wednesday exploring voter attitudes toward top healthcare issues before they head to the polls. Abortion has catapulted in attention, especially after the Supreme Court’s decision this past summer to overturn Roe v. Wade. 

“The new survey reveals how abortion access and reproductive health is motivating majorities of Democratic women, women of reproductive age and Democratic and Democratic-leaning voters in states where abortion is currently illegal,” according to a release on the survey findings. 

It found that half of voters now say the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn the constitutional right to abortion made them more motivated to vote in November. That figure is up compared to 43% in July and 37% in May before the court’s decision was released in June. 

“About two-thirds of Democrats (69%), and half of independents (49%) cite the court’s decision as a motivator, as do a third of Republicans (32%),” Kaiser said. 

For those motivated to vote more due to the court decision, 76% will vote for a candidate who pledges to protect abortion access and 17% will vote for a candidate who will limit access. 

The Supreme Court’s decision punted the issue of abortion back to the states. So far, 13 states have fully banned the procedure, although some of those bans remain in legal limbo, according to an analysis from The New York Times. 

Abortion restrictions vary, however, state by state as some ban the procedure after six to 15 weeks of pregnancy. There are several states such as Texas and Louisiana that ban the procedure in cases of rape and incest. 

Kaiser found that 82% of voters oppose such laws and 59% oppose any ban on the procedure after six weeks. The survey was conducted Sept. 15-26 among 1,534 adults. 

The widespread opposition to such restrictions comes as providers continue to wade through confusing and contradictory regulations surrounding abortion, especially when needed to save the life of the mother. 

The Department of Health and Human Services released guidance in July that told providers abortion was considered emergency care under federal law, effectively preempting state bans. Texas sued over the guidance, arguing that it counteracts the state’s ban on the procedure.

A Kaiser analyst cautioned that abortion will be one of several issues voters will consider when going to the polls. 

“The key thing our survey found is the economy is a big issue in this election,” said Lunna Lopes, senior survey analyst with Kaiser, in an interview with Fierce Healthcare. “We asked an open-ended question where people could tell us what is the one issue they most want to hear the candidates discuss, and a third said they want to hear about economics.”

Abortion came in second, but Lopes said that it is resonating more with certain groups, especially Democrats and women of reproductive age. This is also especially true among Democrats living in states that have banned the procedure, she added. 

Mixed awareness of drug price reform

While more voters are aware of abortion issues, there remains low awareness of drug price reforms passed under the Inflation Reduction Act. 

The law that passed this past summer gave Medicare the power to negotiate prices for a small subset of drugs and caps Medicare monthly drug costs. It also installs a cap on insulin costs for Medicare beneficiaries. 

But since the law’s passage, only 36% of voters surveyed are aware of the drug negotiation powers as well as 29% of the out-of-pocket insulin cost cap and out-of-pocket cap. 

Lopes said older adults more likely to be affected by the provisions were more aware of them. 

“Large majorities of older voters say they would be more likely to vote for candidates who support each of the [Inflation Reduction Act’s] Medicare drug provisions, including limiting out-of-pocket prescription costs (73%), allowing Medicare drug price negotiations (65%) and capping monthly insulin costs (64%),” Kaiser said in a release.