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Attention turns to midterms after Supreme Court draft decision is leaked

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

A U.S. Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade could quickly curtail access to abortion in a lot of states. That prospect is already shaping the way candidates, strategists, advocates and voters are thinking about the 2022 midterms, especially in swing states like Georgia. WABE's Sam Gringlas joins us from Atlanta for more on this. Good morning, Sam.

SAM GRINGLAS, BYLINE: Hi, Leila.

FADEL: So, Sam, if this draft decision holds up, states would decide whether to allow abortion. Where does that leave Georgia and other states?

GRINGLAS: Well, Georgia's legislature is solidly Republican, and in 2019 they passed a bill banning abortion after roughly six weeks. That law would likely take effect really quickly if Roe is struck down. You know, for the last dozen years, Republicans have been just pouring resources into winning these state House races and then drawing district maps to lock in that political power. Democrats now admit that, for a long time, they just didn't invest enough in state legislatures. I talked about that with Jessica Post. She runs the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee.

JESSICA POST: We need to do everything we can to win state legislatures. So I know folks right now may be giving to abortion funds. I would also say please support your Democratic state legislative candidates because they will be the ones deciding the fate of abortion in your state.

GRINGLAS: So say Democrat Stacey Abrams wins her campaign for governor. Without the legislature, there's not a whole lot that she can do to undo laws that are already on the books.

FADEL: Are you already seeing this draft opinion shaping election strategy in Georgia?

GRINGLAS: Yeah. I mean, Democrats think this ruling could energize voters. There's a Democrat here running for attorney general. Her name is Jen Jordan. And right after this draft leaked, she sent off a tweet calling Georgia the next battleground for reproductive freedom, and she's pledging to fight restrictive abortion laws in the state courts.

JEN JORDAN: This was not going to be front and center, obviously. You know, we were talking about pocketbook issues and consumer protection and voting and all that kind of stuff. But sometimes you don't pick the fight; the fight picks you.

GRINGLAS: One more voice I want to bring in - this is Jeanna Kelley. She just signed up to volunteer with Jordan's campaign, spurred by this news, and she's already done a shift texting women voters.

JEANNA KELLEY: I can't do anything else about this but vote and encourage other people to vote. But it really did feel good to be able to connect with women and say, hey, you know, we would love to have you join us in supporting this candidate.

GRINGLAS: So at the end of the day, we really don't know how much overturning Roe would actually move the needle on Election Day. You know, persistent inflation, some other issue could end up outweighing everything else.

FADEL: And what about Republicans? How are they responding?

GRINGLAS: Well, let me just play you some tape from this week's Republican debate for lieutenant governor. All the candidates were lined up on stage, and they were asked if they're satisfied with the restrictive abortion rules Georgia already passed or whether they would want to do more, and here's what they all said.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "ATLANTA PRESS CLUB")

JEANNE SEAVER: I would love to ban abortion.

BRAD MEANS: Just ban it?

SEAVER: Yes, sir.

MEANS: And, Mr. Miller, your thoughts?

BUTCH MILLER: Ban it.

MEANS: For you, Mr. Jones?

BURT JONES: Ban it.

GRINGLAS: Republican David Perdue, who's challenging Georgia's sitting Republican governor, Brian Kemp, says he would also now pursue an all-out ban on abortion. Kemp has not weighed in on that, but he might feel compelled to call for a ban, too. That could bite him in November, though, when he needs this broader swath of Georgia voters to keep him in office.

FADEL: Hmm. Sam Gringlas, political reporter at WABE in Atlanta. Thank you so much.

GRINGLAS: Thanks, Leila. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.