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Abortion rights advocates had a strong showing in Tuesday’s midterm elections, holding several key governorships and beating back Republican gains in state legislatures. And though several abortion-related ballot measures have not yet been called, most states with abortion on the ballot appear likely to have voted in favor of protections.
The results indicate how much of an impact the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade — which dismantled federal abortion rights and allowed states to ban the procedure — had on an election that many expected to be a referendum on President Joe Biden, whose approval remains low, and on continually high inflation rates. The outcomes of these votes will drastically shape what abortion access looks like in the months and years to come.
The Supreme Court’s summer ruling injected new life into Democratic campaigns across the country, and several built their election efforts explicitly around protecting abortion rights. Joint polling from the Associated Press and Kaiser Family Foundation suggests that the ruling had a “major impact” on how Democrats and women ages 18 to 49 voted this year.
Below are some of the most significant results.
Democrats held onto at least seven governorships, Decision Desk HQ projects: New York, Maine, Minnesota, Kansas, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan. Victors aren’t yet clear in Arizona and Nevada.
The results will likely have significant influence on abortion availability. Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer campaigned explicitly on protecting abortion access in her state, one of the few in the region to maintain legal abortion. (A pre-Roe ban is being challenged in Michigan’s state court but is currently blocked.) That will be an easier task in Michigan, thanks to a newly blue state legislature.
Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers also emphasized the issue, vowing to protect access. But abortion is currently unavailable in his state while his administration challenges a pre-Roe ban similar to Michigan’sin state court. It’s not yet clear how that case will proceed, or what its results will mean for abortion availability returning to Wisconsin. But Evers has vowed his administration will continue to back the lawsuit. Had he lost, the abortion ban would have had a better chance of staying in place.
Kansas’ and Pennsylvania’s governors — including Kansas incumbent Laura Kelly — are expected to veto efforts to ban or restrict abortion in their states. Kelly has already emerged as a consistent veto against abortion restrictions. Though the state voted to maintain abortion rights protections this summer, Republican lawmakers are expected to push for some kind of limitations on the procedure. Republicans hold a supermajority in the legislature, and if they stay unified, can override a governor’s veto.
“I believe today Kansans truly did vote to keep our state moving forward full speed,” Kelly told supporters according to the Kansas Reflector. “We will not go backward. Kansans voted for strong schools, for economic growth, for balanced budgets. And yes, they voted for a woman’s right to make her own choice.”
In Pennsylvania, Gov.-elect Josh Shapiro campaigned explicitly promising to veto abortion restrictions. Both states have seen significant increases in patients traveling from out of state for abortions — particularly Kansas, which is near several large states that have banned the procedure.
California passed Proposal 1, which enshrines the right to abortion in the state constitution and further secures the state’s status as an abortion safe haven.
In other measures, Decision Desk HQ has not yet projected results. Vermont appears likely to pass a similar protection to California. It’s not clear how Montana voters will respond to their abortion-related measure, which puts new regulations on how doctors must treat “infants born alive” after an attempted abortion — something that happens incredibly rarely in practice, and a measure doctors say stigmatizes abortion.
Kentucky, a state where polling suggests abortion has historically been unpopular, appears likely to shoot down a measure that would have amended their constitution so that it did not protect abortion. If that result holds, it would strengthen the argument some abortion rights arguments have made: Abortion can be a winning issue even in traditionally conservative states. Abortion is currently unavailable in Kentucky thanks to a state trigger law banning the procedure. If voters do reject this amendment, it would bolster abortion providers’ argument in state court, where they have said the abortion ban violates the state constitution and should be blocked.
And in Michigan, voters appear likely to amend their constitution so that it explicitly protects abortion rights. That result would prevent the state’s pre-Roe abortion ban from taking effect.
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Democrats had a much better night than expected in many of the state legislatures key to abortion access.
Democrats pulled off the once-unthinkable feat of flipping both chambers of the Michigan state legislature for the first time in nearly four decades, securing a Democratic trifecta — control of the House, Senate and governor’s office — in the battleground state. Democrats also flipped control of the state Senate and secured a trifecta in Minnesota, where the legislature had previously been divided between Republican and Democratic Farmer-Laborer control.
Republicans in the North Carolina House fell just one seat short of securing a supermajority that could allow them to potentially pass abortion restrictions by overriding Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto. And Republicans in Wisconsin appear likely to fall short of their goal to gain veto-proof supermajorities in both chambers of the already heavily Republican state legislature.
State supreme courts
The results of state supreme court races were murkier for abortion rights advocates. Republicans flipped control of the state Supreme Court in North Carolina, a key abortion access point, and solidified a 4-3 majority on Ohio’s Supreme Court, which is likely to hear future challenges to the state’s six-week abortion ban.
Liberals maintained their majority on the Michigan Supreme Court, but a pro-abortion-rights state lawmaker, Kyra Harris Bolden, lost her technically nonpartisan bid to unseat conservative justice Brian Zahra. But anti-abortion Kentucky lawmaker Joe Fischer, the architect behind the state’s abortion ban and the anti-abortion ballot measure, appears on track to lose his campaign for state Supreme Court.
Republicans in the U.S. Senate and U.S. House have put forth national abortion restrictions that come to a vote on the floor if they win back control of Congress. Control of both chambers of Congress is still too close to call, but Democrats are significantly outperforming expectations and could hold onto narrow majorities.
Democrat John Fetterman flipped a key Senate seat in Pennsylvania from Republican to Democratic control and Democrat Maggie Hassan won reelection while Republicans held control of Senate seats in Florida, North Carolina and Wisconsin. Fetterman cited abortion rights in his Tuesday night victory speech, and both Democrats campaigned explicitly on the issue.
In the House, Democrats and Republicans have each flipped four seats for their party, and several vulnerable Democratic incumbents have held onto their seats. One side will need to win 218 seats for a majority.