What will matter more to women voters in midterms: Abortion rights or the price of bread?

Let's not forget: High inflation is temporary. As American voters, it is our charge to play the long game.

Remember just four short months ago, when all the political pundits could talk about was how energized women would be to cast ballots to uphold their belief in the fundamental right of reproductive agency or to show support for those candidates who shared their views on abortion rights?

There now appears to be a seismic shift.

With less than two weeks before Election Day and early voting already underway in many states, poll after poll after poll suggests that the economy remains the top issue for American voters, including women, and the realities of their pocketbooks are drawing them to the anti-abortion GOP crowd. 

Republicans are hitting the economic issue hard, blaming President Joe Biden and his party for rising food prices, erratic gas costs and painful utility bills. If we're being intellectually honest, we know that neither Biden nor any other Democrat (or Republican) can control the staggering inflation rates hitting America – and the rest of the world.

But humans often vote based on emotions. And it's easy to blame the incumbent president and party in power, as previous midterm election results have shown us.   

Milk and bread are a bigger priority

Democrats, in a dog fight to remain in control of both congressional chambers, continue to fixate on the protection of abortion rights in hopes of bolstering voter engagement and support.

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The U.S. Supreme Court's late June landmark decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization sparked protests and outrage, especially because most Americans support legal abortions in all or most cases

Many believed that the ruling to overturn Roe would motivate and mobilize voters, particularly women. A significant win served as a promising early indicator when women voters in red Kansas turned out in droves for an August primary to enshrine abortion rights in the state constitution.

Abortion-rights supporters cheer as the proposed Kansas constitutional amendment fails on Aug. 2, 2022.

Abortion referendums are on the ballot in some states, but not in Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania or Wisconsin, where key races could flip the Senate back to Republican control.  

Michigan voters, for example, will decide whether to approve Proposal 3, which would amend the state constitution to protect reproductive freedom, including access to abortions. Kentucky voters will face a similar measure at the polls.

The abortion debate hasn't gone away, but it certainly seems to have taken a backseat to the cost of milk, bread and eggs.

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., chair of the Senate Budget Committee, wrote in a recent Guardian op-ed that to win this election, Democrats must fight back on economic issues such as low wages, child care, housing, home health care and college affordability.

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"In my view, while the abortion issue must remain on the front burner, it would be political malpractice for Democrats to ignore the state of the economy and allow Republican lies and distortions to go unanswered," Sanders wrote.

Vote for every aspect of humanity

I'm here to ask the uncomfortable questions: What are white women going to do on Nov. 8? Are they going to vote with their wallets – often the source of self-preservation and power? Or will their support for abortion protections translate to votes for Democrats in individual races?

There's no denying the power of the white woman vote, for better or worse. In the 2018 midterm elections, women – including those who live in the suburbs, are educated and high income – helped flip the House and ushered more women lawmakers into Congress than ever before

Laura Dickey, president of the League of Women Voters of Westford, Mass., marking the 100th anniversary of women' right to vote in 2020.

Yet I'm not certain abortion is enough to rally the base for the Democratic Party when Republicans insist on a steady drumbeat of fiscal doom and gloom. Please know I'm not minimizing the plight of millions of Americans who are facing financial hardship – I write about them.   

Biden has lofty plan to 'end hunger.' But he must address Americans' urgent needs.

Of course the economy is important. So are reproductive rights. As is a more equitable tax code, environmental and clean energy efforts, low-cost prescription prices, an inclusive health care system, humane immigration policies, manufacturing stability, paid family and medical leave, and affordable housing. 

Suzette Hackney

Only voters can decide which candidates better align with their priorities. 

But let's not forget: High inflation is temporary. As American voters, it is our charge to play the long game. We are electing members of Congress whose job it is to enact legislation that affects nearly every aspect of life – four months from now and four years from now.

National columnist/deputy opinion editor Suzette Hackney is a member of USA TODAY’S Editorial Board. Contact her at or on Twitter: @suzyscribe

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