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Many abortion rights supporters are frustrated with Democrats

JUANA SUMMERS, HOST:

Since last month's leak of the draft opinion overturning Roe, Democrats' main message to their voters has been that abortion is on the ballot in November. But many who support abortion rights have been voting. They say they're frustrated that electing Democrats hasn't produced more results. NPR's Danielle Kurtzleben reports.

DANIELLE KURTZLEBEN, BYLINE: The rage among pro-abortion rights protesters in front of the Supreme Court this weekend was palpable. Plenty of that anger was aimed at the high court, but there was also quite a bit reserved for Democrats.

CAROLYN YUNKER: I'm not hopeful at this point that this is something that will be federally protected. I have as little faith in Democrats at this point as I did in Republicans.

KURTZLEBEN: Carolyn Yunker came to Saturday's protests from her home in suburban Maryland.

YUNKER: Democrats have used this for 50 years to fundraise. They had opportunities to codify Roe. They chose not to because being the pro-choice candidate in an election helps you raise money. And frankly, I'm pretty disgusted with a lot of our representatives right now.

KURTZLEBEN: In the fall, House Democrats did pass a bill that would have made Roe's protections federal law. But it failed in the Senate in May, where it would need 60 votes. Abortion rights supporters want the Senate to blow up the filibuster, but Democrats haven't unified behind that idea, and Biden hasn't pushed for it. He has also resisted calls to expand the court. Immediately after the ruling, Biden gave a statement. But the White House also canceled the daily press briefing, and the president left for a major summit in Europe.

Thirty-four senators this weekend urged Biden in a letter to lead a national response. A White House official emphasized that the administration will support medication abortion and cited dozens of discussions with abortion rights stakeholders. The White House also says policy action is coming this week.

Nineteen-year-old Pryia Thompson, who came to the Supreme Court with her grandmother, said that as a new voter who supports abortion rights, she's feeling ambivalent about her vote.

PRYIA THOMPSON: Honestly, it's like, I'm just getting started, and all of this is happening. So it's, like, hard to, like, make decisions and know who to vote for and who's really for us.

KURTZLEBEN: With Roe overturned, Democratic candidates like Sarah Godlewski running for Senate in Wisconsin will be working to show voters that, no, seriously, they will prioritize protecting abortion rights if elected.

SARAH GODLEWSKI: This is one of the reasons why I stepped up to run for the U.S. Senate, you know, was that I was getting sick of reproductive freedom being treated like some sort of extra credit project.

KURTZLEBEN: While this anger is prominent in the abortion rights movement, there's also an acknowledgement that some supporters grew complacent during the half-century that Roe was in effect. Aimee Allison is founder of She the People, which promotes women candidates of color.

AIMEE ALLISON: Even when we heard that the Supreme Court was planning to overturn Roe v. Wade, it didn't sink in for many people that this was actually a threat realized and it was going to have an effect on our lives.

KURTZLEBEN: Allison said she's committed to electing Senate candidates who could help eliminate the filibuster.

ALLISON: If we can elect these women of color, we'll have the votes in order to pass the legislation that went through the House and is sitting at the Senate to restore abortion rights and make reproductive justice a reality.

KURTZLEBEN: In the short and medium term, some are focused on abortion access. Laura Kriv was among a small group protesting in front of Justice Brett Kavanaugh's house on Saturday night.

LAURA KRIV: Just like the Janes started this movement years ago and took it upon themselves to make sure women had safe access to abortion, we're going to have to do the same thing. And I'm not going to wait for Biden to do something.

KURTZLEBEN: With activists motivated to do so much to protect abortion access right now, it's not clear how much they see voting this November as a solution.

Danielle Kurtzleben, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF BILLIE EILISH SONG, "YOUR POWER") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Danielle Kurtzleben is a political correspondent assigned to NPR's Washington Desk. She appears on NPR shows, writes for the web, and is a regular on The NPR Politics Podcast. She is covering the 2020 presidential election, with particular focuses on on economic policy and gender politics.