Abor­tion pol­i­tics loomed large in the midterm elec­tions. Here’s how it all played out Tues­day.

Two states passed mea­sures cur­tail­ing ac­cess, but sup­port­ers still claimed vic­tory in midterms

The Washington Post - - METRO - BY SA­MAN­THA SCH­MIDT AND MICHELLE BOORSTEIN sa­man­tha.sch­midt@wash­post.com michelle.boorstein@wash­post.com

With the fate of Roe v. Wade hang­ing in the bal­ance, Tues­day night’s midterm elec­tions brought high stakes for both sides of the abor­tion de­bate.

An­tiabor­tion 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 amend­ing 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 banned 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, and the vote was tighter in West Vir­ginia — about 52 per­cent to 48 per­cent in fa­vor.

But in Ore­gon, a bal­lot mea­sure pro­hibit­ing the use of pub­lic money to fund most abor­tions was de­feated, re­jected by 64 per­cent of vot­ers. And for abor­tion rights ac­tivists, such as Planned Par­ent­hood, th­ese 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, ex­ec­u­tive vice pres­i­dent and chief ex­pe­ri­ence of­fi­cer for Planned Par­ent­hood Ac­tion Fund.

If the clock was tick­ing to­ward mid­night af­ter Jus­tice Brett M. Ka­vanaugh was con­firmed to the Supreme Court, Laguens said, “un­equiv­o­cally it ticked away from mid­night” on Tues­day night.

Planned Par­ent­hood counted at least seven state leg­isla­tive cham­bers that flipped to Demo­cratic, abor­tion rights ma­jori­ties — in Colorado, Con­necti­cut, Min­nesota, Maine and New York, as well as two in New Hamp­shire. And sev­eral key toss-up states elected Demo­cratic gov­er­nors, dodg­ing Repub­li­can can­di­dates who had threat­ened to re­strict ac­cess to abor­tion.

Why should we be pay­ing at­ten­tion to the role of th­ese statelevel races in the abor­tion de­bate? If the Supreme Court over­turns Roe, 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 El­iz­a­beth Nash, a pol­icy an­a­lyst at the Guttmacher In­sti­tute, an ad­vo­cacy group fo­cus­ing on re­pro­duc­tive-health pol­icy. “If the Supreme Court rolls back abor­tion rights, states will have even more lee­way to un­der­mine abor­tion rights.”

Abor­tion rights ac­tivists touted wins for Demo­cratic gu­ber­na­to­rial can­di­dates in Kansas, Wis­con­sin, Michi­gan and Min­nesota.

In Kansas, Repub­li­can Sam Brown­back, as gover­nor, had signed into law sharp re­stric­tions on abor­tion, and Repub­li­can gu­ber­na­to­rial can­di­date Kris Kobach had vowed to sup­port a state con­sti­tu­tional amend­ment mak­ing clear that the right to an abor­tion is not pro­vided in Kansas. On Tues­day night, Laura Kelly, a Demo­crat en­dorsed by Planned Par­ent­hood, was elected gover­nor.

In Wis­con­sin, where Repub­li­can Gov. Scott Walker’s cuts to Planned Par­ent­hood fund­ing caused five health cen­ters to close, vot­ers elected Demo­crat Tony Evers as gover­nor.

Still, an­tiabor­tion ad­vo­cates touted strong wins in the U.S. Se­nate, where three Repub­li­can can­di­dates who de­scribe them­selves as strong op­po­nents of abor­tion flipped seats in Mis­souri, North Dakota and In­di­ana.

Ac­cord­ing to the Na­tional Re­view, the an­tiabor­tion Su­san B. An­thony List spent nearly $30 mil­lion this elec­tion cy­cle to sup­port an­tiabor­tion GOP sen­a­tors. Talk­ing about abor­tion more ex­plic­itly has been a win­ning strat­egy for some in the GOP in the past few years, the con­ser­va­tive news site re­ported this week, de­spite main­stream Repub­li­can ad­vice to steer a mid­dle course.

Abor­tion rights ad­vo­cates say there is ev­i­dence this year that re­li­gious con­ser­va­tives are treat­ing the topic of abor­tion a lit­tle more crit­i­cally in de­cid­ing how to vote. The bal­lot mea­sures in West Vir­ginia and Alabama passed with nar­row mar­gins, they said. And some re­li­gious vot­ers ap­pear to be weigh­ing abor­tion against other is­sues, such as im­mi­gra­tion, in de­ter­min­ing what qual­i­fies as an­tiabor­tion, pos­si­bly adding to the wins of Democrats to na­tional of­fices in con­ser­va­tive areas such as Kansas and Ok­la­homa.

“I think the re­li­gious com­mu­nity is be­com­ing more so­phis­ti­cated in the wide range of what it means to be ‘for life,’ ” said Doug Pagitt, co-founder of the pro­gres­sive Chris­tian ad­vo­cacy group Vote Com­mon Good.

About a quar­ter of vot­ers were Catholic, ac­cord­ing to net­work exit polling done by CNN. Of that group, the vote was split: 50 per­cent voted for House Democrats and 49 per­cent for Repub­li­cans. In 2014, they sup­ported Repub­li­cans by nine points, 54 per­cent to 45 per­cent.

Among the 2 per­cent of vot­ers who are Jewish, 79 per­cent voted for Democrats com­pared with 17 per­cent for Repub­li­cans, wider than the 66 per­cent to 33 per­cent mar­gin in fa­vor of Democrats in 2014.

Us­ing the re­li­gios­ity met­ric of wor­ship ser­vice at­ten­dance, vot­ers who go to ser­vices weekly or more fre­quently sup­ported Repub­li­can House can­di­dates 58 per­cent to 40 per­cent, the same as 2014.

This year saw left-lean­ing vot­ers, in­clud­ing ones who are re­li­gious, pay at­ten­tion anew to the topic of abor­tion. A re­cent Pew Re­search Cen­ter poll said 61 per­cent of Democrats said abor­tion was “very im­por­tant” to their vote this year, up from 38 per­cent in 2008. Forty-four per­cent of GOP vot­ers told Pew that abor­tion was “very im­por­tant.”

Mean­while, white evan­gel­i­cals — who are now the most strongly op­posed to abor­tion ac­cess — voted gen­er­ally as they have in past elec­tions. Ac­cord­ing to CNN’s exit polls, they made up about a quar­ter of House vot­ers. In those races, they voted for GOP can­di­dates by 75 per­cent to 22 per­cent. In 2014, they went for the GOP by a sim­i­lar 78 per­cent to 20 per­cent.

Ti­mothy Head, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Faith & Free­dom Coali­tion, a con­ser­va­tive Chris­tian ad­vo­cacy group, said the fact that evan­gel­i­cal Chris­tians con­tinue to make up such a big slice of the elec­torate — 26 per­cent, as they did in the 2014 midterms, ac­cord­ing to CNN exit polls — is tes­ti­mony to the drive to fight abor­tion, be­cause the topic is such a high pri­or­ity for those vot­ers.

There was anec­do­tal ev­i­dence that con­ser­va­tive vot­ers were mo­ti­vated to come to the polls by the fight over Ka­vanaugh, he said, which was a dis­pute largely about abor­tion.

“When you talk the Supreme Court, the num­ber one is­sue about the Supreme Court for evan­gel­i­cals is the life ques­tion,” Head said. “It re­mains on the boiler at all times.”

ABOVE: DON RYAN/AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS; BE­LOW: MATT MCCLAIN/THE WASH­ING­TON POST

Ore­gon Gov. Kate Brown (D), left, poses for pho­tos with abor­tion rights sup­port­ers af­ter a rally in Port­land, Ore., last month. Cathy Roth of Ger­man­town, Md., protests with other an­tiabor­tion ac­tivists out­side the White House in July.

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