Tuesday’s off-year elections were a huge win for Democrats and proof that when it comes to the issue of reproductive rights, a majority of voters are in favor of bodily autonomy. Historic wins across the country could set the stage for 2024 as voters in conservative states continue to show up and vote to preserve the right to safe and legal abortion.
“It’s clearer than ever: Abortion is a winning issue at the ballot box. Tuesday’s election results mean that protections for not just abortion access, but a wide spectrum of reproductive health decisions will be the law of the land in Ohio,” Regina Davis Moss, president and CEO of In Our Own Voice: National Black Women’s Reproductive Justice Agenda, said in a statement.
Ohio voters overwhelmingly voted to approve Issue 1, adding an amendment to the state Constitution that says, “Every individual has a right to make and carry out one’s own reproductive decisions, including but not limited to decisions on contraception, fertility treatment, continuing one’s own pregnancy, miscarriage care, and abortion.”
Earlier in the year, with an eye to the upcoming vote on the proposed amendment, Republican lawmakers had proposed increasing the threshold for passing ballot measures to 60% of the vote, which would have made it more difficult to amend the Constitution. Voters soundly rejected the measure in a special election in August, choosing instead to keep the threshold at a simple majority.
In 2019, Ohio Republican Gov. Mike DeWine signed a law banning abortion after embryonic cardiac activity is detected. That law went into effect after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June 2022.
The law has been on hold because of legal challenges, leaving abortion legal up to 22 weeks of gestation. The passage of Issue 1 will allow access to abortion up to fetal viability, around 22 to 24 weeks of pregnancy. After fetal viability, a patient’s right to abortion care can be challenged unless the patient’s life is in danger.
“Tonight, Ohio celebrates an enormous victory for reproductive freedom. The constitutional right to access abortion, contraception, and other reproductive health services in the state is now protected for all Ohioans,” Alexis McGill Johnson, president of Planned Parenthood Action Fund, said in a statement.
After what had been a heated campaign centered on abortion rights, Virginia Democrats kept control of the state Legislature.
All seats in the General Assembly were up for election, and although there was no measure on abortion rights on the ballot, Democrats, who as a whole support them, gained control of the House of Delegates and kept control of the Senate.
For months, Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin has said he supports a 15-week abortion ban, something he claimed had a consensus of support among voters.
Virginia is the only Southern state that has not banned or restricted abortion since Roe was overturned. Abortion is legal until 26 weeks and six days of pregnancy in Virginia, and after last night’s wins by Democrats, the law is likely to remain in place.
“In Virginia, my home state, voters rejected shameless attempts from Republicans to mislead them into thinking that a 15-week ban is anything but an attack on their ability to make their own decisions about their bodies and their lives,” Brittany Fonteno, president and CEO of the National Abortion Federation, said in a statement. “This victory not only ensures continued access to abortion care in Virginia but, as the only state not to have banned or significantly restricted abortion in the South, across the region as well.”
Incumbent Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear won reelection on Tuesday against his Republican opponent, Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron.
Cameron has been outspoken about his opposition to abortion rights.
“Cameron is a fearless advocate for the unborn because every life is worth protecting. Inside the courtroom and outside of it, Daniel Cameron is the tip of the spear in the fight to preserve a pro-life Kentucky,” his official website reads.
In September, during the gubernatorial campaign, Cameron switched his staunch anti-abortion views to include exceptions for rape and incest. Beshear’s campaign ran television ads criticizing Cameron on the issue.
Pennsylvania Judge Daniel McCaffery won election on Tuesday to become the state’s next Supreme Court justice, maintaining Democrats’ existing 5-2 majority on the high court.
The race became mainly about where McCaffery and his Republican opponent, Carolyn Carluccio, stood on abortion rights.
In an interview with the American Independent in October, McCaffery said abortion was a defining issue in the race.
After she won the Republican primary, Carluccio, a judge on the Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas, removed anti-abortion language from her campaign website. She was endorsed by the anti-abortion groups Pennsylvania Pro-Life Federation and Pro-Life Coalition of Pennsylvania.
Although the open seat that McCaffery and Carluccio were running for will not change the partisan balance of the court, three of its seats will be on the ballot in 2025.
“Once again, Pennsylvanians have embraced reproductive freedom and ensured that another anti-abortion extremist will not serve on the state supreme court. Judge McCaffery is a dedicated public servant and fair-minded judge who values our fundamental rights,” Reproductive Freedom for All President and CEO Mini Timmaraju said in a statement. “We are proud to have mobilized our more than 159,000 members in the state to help elect him to the bench.”