Poll results promising for abortion-rights backers
With the fate of Roe v. Wade hanging in the balance, Tuesday’s midterm elections brought high stakes for both sides of the abortion debate.
Anti-abortion advocates gained clear legislative victories in Alabama and West Virginia, where voters passed constitutional amendments paving the way to ban abortion if the new conservative consensus on the Supreme Court overturns the landmark 1973 ruling that outlawed restrictions on the procedure before the fetus is viable.
In West Virginia, voters passed a measure by 52 percent of the vote that amends the state’s constitution to say that “nothing in this Constitution secures or protects a right to abortion or the funding of abortion.” It also bans state Medicaid insurance from covering abortion.
In Alabama, a ballot measure passed assigning legal rights to fetuses and excluding the right to abortion from the state constitution. Fifty-eight percent of voters in Alabama voted for the ballot measure.
On the other side of the issue, an Oregon ballot measure prohibiting the use of public money to fund most abortions was rejected by 64 percent of voters.
For abortion-rights activists, such as Planned Parenthood, the anti-abortion ballot measures were anomalies in an otherwise promising night that brought Democratic wins in gubernatorial and state legislature races across the country.
“Far more elected officials today than yesterday are going to be working to protect access to abortion and reproductive health in this country,” said Dawn Laguens, the executive vice president and chief experience officer for Planned Parenthood Action Fund.
Planned Parenthood counted at least seven state legislative chambers that flipped to Democratic, proabortion-rights majorities
— in Colorado, Connecticut, Minnesota, Maine, New York and two in New Hampshire. And several key toss-up states elected Democratic governors over Republican candidates who had threatened to restrict access to abortion.
These state-level races factor into the abortion debate because if the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, state lawmakers and governors could have the power to enact major changes in access to abortion.
“For decades, states have been the battleground on abortion rights,” said Emily Nash, a policy analyst at the Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive-health policy advocacy group. “If the Supreme Court rolls back abortion rights, states will have even more leeway to undermine abortion rights.”
Abortion-rights activists noted wins for Democratic gubernatorial candidates in Kansas, Wisconsin, Michigan and Minnesota.
In Kansas, for example, former governor Sam Brownback had signed into law sharp restrictions on abortion, and Republican candidate Kris Kobach vowed to support a constitutional amendment making clear that Kansas does not include the right to an abortion. On Tuesday, Laura Kelly, a Democrat endorsed by Planned Parenthood, was elected governor.
In Wisconsin, where Gov. Scott Walker’s cuts to Planned Parenthood funding caused five health centers to close, voters elected Democrat Tony Evers as their new governor.
Still, anti-abortion advocates noted strong wins in the Senate, where three Republican candidates who describe themselves as opponents of abortion flipped seats in Missouri, North Dakota and Indiana.