The Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade in the Dobbs decision, after 50 years of guaranteed abortion rights and access, was a wake-up call to many Americans. On the eve of the 2022 mid-term elections, abortion was illegal in a quarter of the country. The question was: what would voters do about it?
Millions of voters cast their ballots this year, making this one of the highest turnout midterm elections in history. And on election night, it became clear that the Supreme Court’s rollback of abortion rights was a big reason why. Voters repudiated prognostications about a “red wave,” scare tactics about crime and inflation, and anti-abortion extremists who threatened to further restrict or even ban abortion outright. Instead, voters have elected a Democratic majority to the US Senate, replaced three Republican governors with abortion-rights-supporting Democrats and rejected outright efforts to ban abortion via ballot referendum.
In fact, in states where voters had direct opportunity to vote on the abortion issue, they overwhelmingly chose to protect abortion rights and access in law. In Kentucky, where anti-abortion extremists sought to ban abortion rights in the state constitution, voters said “no” the ban. Kentucky is the first southern state to reject an abortion ban.
Michigan voters approved a constitutional amendment guaranteeing reproductive freedom, thus preventing a ban from 1931 from taking effect. Kentucky voters narrowly rejected an amendment that would T\ Abortion rights ballot questions were approved in Vermont and California.
A ballot measure to require that infants born alive after attempted abortions be given medical care lost in Montana. Also, in Montana incumbent, Justice Ingrid Gustafson defeated her challenger by 54% of the vote to 47% for, James Brown, a Republican endorsed by the state’s GOP governor and party leaders seeking to reverse a 1999 court ruling that the state constitution protects the right to an abortion.
Exit polls tell an even bigger story:
- Abortion was the single-most important issue for a quarter of all voters, and for a third of women under age 50.
- Exit polls by NBC News placed the importance of abortion even higher, with 32% of voters naming inflation as their top voting issue and 27% naming abortion.
- In states where abortion rights are at risk, candidates for governor who ran in support of protecting abortion won including in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan. But some exit polls, like the CNN ones referenced above, suggest that support for abortion doesn’t always materialize as support for Democrats, About a quarter of people who signaled support for abortion rights voted for Republicans. Go figure.
- Abortion was also an issue in contested Supreme Court elections in at least six states, where challenges to abortion laws or constitutional interpretations could decide whether the procedure remains legal. One state saw party control of its high court flip: North Carolina, where a Republican challenger defeated a Democratic incumbent to give the GOP a 4-3 majority. In Ohio, Republicans kept their majority on the high court and some speculate that the abortion question will appear on a ballot measure soon.
- In Kentucky, Justice Michelle Keller defeated challenger Joe Fischer, a Republican state legislator who sponsored Kentucky’s abortion trigger law.
In state after state, voters sent a clear message: access to abortion, like any other health care procedure, should not depend on where you live or how much money you make, nor should it depend on the personal beliefs or judgments of any elected official. In fact, the job of lawmakers at every level is to guarantee that everyone facing the decision about whether to continue or terminate a pregnancy has the right to make that personal decision in consultation with their family and their doctor and without undue interference from politicians. No matter who controls Congress next year, federal lawmakers must take action to restore legal access to abortion in law so that everyone, no matter what state they live in, has control over their personal destiny and the size of their family. In states, advocates and voters must keep up the fight to restore abortion rights and access and to expand our freedom to control our own futures.