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Opinion: What is the real lesson from Roe v. Wade? Whatever side you're on, your vote matters

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Benjamin Franklin once offered this version of an old proverb:

For want of a nail the shoe was lost,

For want of a shoe the horse was lost,

For want of a horse the rider was lost,

For want of a rider the battle was lost,

For want of a battle the kingdom was lost,

And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.

What is the potential impact of one lost horseshoe nail? It may not matter at all — or it just might matter a lot.

Imagine for a moment that nail is your vote. 

In our country, we are told from an early age how important it is to show up and vote. We are told it is our civic duty, that every vote matters, and to trust those we elect to advance policies they campaign on. 

Rarely in politics do we get a crystal clear view of the amplified power of our vote as a policy decision marches through every branch of government. Last week, the United States Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, and that decision did not start in Washington, D.C. It started at the ballot box. 

In the 2016 presidential election, 65% of registered voters said the makeup of the United States Supreme Court was very important in deciding who they voted for. In Utah, 40% of voters polled at that time said the opportunity to fill a seat on the Supreme Court made them more likely to vote for Donald Trump. This issue became a motivating factor in a race where Utahns were hugely disappointed in their presidential options and Donald Trump won the state with 45.5% of the vote, the lowest percentage for any Republican in more than 20 years.

As with every election, voters must weigh the pros and cons of a candidate.

Donald Trump proved to be a historically unpopular Republican candidate for Utah voters, but in the end they "came home" in hopes their conservative policy goals would be achieved. Voters knew the winner of the presidential election would fill vacancies on the Supreme Court, and Donald Trump was pledging to appoint a conservative justice. Conservative candidates and their voters had their eye on the very decision that was handed down last week, and they believed Trump would fulfill his campaign promise.

By the end of his term, he appointed three new justices and all of them were in the majority in the decision on Roe v. Wade. 

The long game Republicans were engaged in is over, and now the future of abortion legislation is much closer to home. These critical decisions will be made by local and federal elected officials we know well, by candidates we will see on our own ballots.

Whatever you think about the Supreme Court's decision, the fate of Roe v. Wade continues to lie in the hands of voters. So does what happens next, including what priorities each state and the federal government give to care for women and children.

Just as with Franklin's metaphor, the first step of a battle may be as simple as gathering the nail for the horseshoe. We have seen that consequential laws begin with a ballot cast by an average citizen. If you want to influence those decisions, you have to pound your nail.

Jason P. Perry is the director of the Hinckley Institute of Politics.

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