Brenna Lyons, a young mother living with her husband and baby boy in Augusta, Georgia, suffered a miscarriage last spring.
The procedure she needed to remove tissue from her uterus was the same as that used for a woman having an abortion, called “dilation and curettage”.
At the time, Georgia’s six-week abortion ban was not in place. And because her fetus had lost a heartbeat, she shouldn’t have been hit by the law anyway.
Still, Lyons wonders: If the law had been different back then, would her doctors have believed she was having a miscarriage? Could they have refused him the procedure to avoid legal trouble? Would she have been forced to go through the pregnancy at home on her own instead of getting help right away?
Lyons, who is pregnant again, says these questions haunt her and her friends with similar experiences. And they’re excited to vote next month.
“I have friends in Arkansas who have expressed the same kind of concern that the law just puts this hesitation there, this pause” on what’s legal and what’s not, a- she declared.
“While when we had a constitutional right (to an abortion), our doctors thought they could do what they had to do to protect us,” she said.
As the nation heads into a midterm election next month where Republicans have high hopes for big wins, poll watchers are cautiously considering whether women like Lyons and her friends could become some kind of wild card that makes tip the scales on the outcome of close races.
According to a survey released Tuesday and funded by the right-wing think tank American Enterprise Institute, abortion rights now dominate what concerns young female voters – far outpacing inflation, crime and immigration.
Additionally, young women overwhelmingly say abortion should be legal, including nearly half who say there should be no restrictions.
While it’s unclear whether that passion could translate to actual votes – the survey was carried out in August with midterm elections still weeks away – today’s abortion debate emerges as a sort of “defining generational moment” in American politics that could impact future elections, said Dan Cox, director of the AEI’s Survey Center on American Life.
“No one cares about this issue more than young women,” he said. “In fact, and I’ve never seen this before in about 15 years of polls, abortion ranks as the most important issue” in this group.
The AEI survey released on Tuesday echoed similar findings that Democrats hope will influence close racing.
The ultimate impact, however, is far from clear. Complicating the electoral outlook is that the woman most directly affected by abortion restrictions — namely black women living in the South where the bans are greatest — are not majority voters. .
In Georgia, for example, before the six-week ban took effect this summer, black women sought 65% of abortions in the state, compared to 21% of whites, according to data compiled by the Centers for Disease Control of and Prevention. .
Supporters say poverty and a lack of affordable health care, including contraceptives, are to blame.
Still, the majority of voters in Georgia’s recent election are white and over the age of 65 — a demographic typically more concerned about inflation and the cost of living than abortion. It’s a major liability for a candidate like Democrat Stacey Abrams, who is running again for governor of Georgia after narrowly losing four years ago to Republican Brian Kemp.
Jasmine Keith, an Atlanta-based organizer for the New Georgia Project, a voter advocacy group originally founded by Abrams, wants to change that equation.
Keith spent a recent weekend handing out an emergency design with election guides at a block party in a Walmart parking lot in South Fulton. Another weekend, she helped organize a roller-skating rink event called “Rollin’ With Repro” for “an afternoon of roller skating, reproductive justice, and voter education.”
The majority of people she talks to are young and black, like her, and very worried, she said.
“A lot of people don’t know,” she said of Georgia’s six-week ban. “And when they find out, I feel like it’s a push for them” to vote.
Emily Greene, who leads the organization’s Augusta office and has worked on voter engagement efforts since her teens, said she felt a difference in voters this election.
“They’re just ready… They want to go. They won’t be pushed back,” Greene said of voters.
But for political strategists and pollsters like Cox, the question remains whether voters passionately in favor of abortion rights will turn up at the polls in November in a new way.
Lyons, for example, is a longtime voter who said she would have hit a ticket for the Democrats anyway.
“For certain constituencies, for certain segments of the population, I think this is going to have profound long-term political impacts,” Cox said.
For Lysons, she decided to speak out more on the issue.
His goal ? “I hope to be a voice for someone who feels like they can’t speak, can’t be heard, can’t go to the polls,” she said.