Republican politicians and activists have spent decades paving the way for the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade, and they finally got their wish this summer: States can now ban abortion if they want to. The problem is, the voters just really do not want to.
In Tuesday’s midterm election, abortion rights won in all five states where they were directly on the ballot, including deep-red Kentucky and Montana. And this comes after Kansans resoundingly defeated an anti-abortion measure in August. It would seem abortion rights are extremely popular everywhere, even among many Republicans, despite what elected leaders would have you believe.
In California, Vermont, and Michigan, measures to enshrine a constitutional right to abortion in each state were all successful, despite substantial disinformation campaigns
The victory for abortion rights is especially vital in Michigan, a Midwest haven for abortion access surrounded by three states that are currently challenging abortion bans in court. In addition to adding the right to abortion to the state Constitution, Michigan re-elected Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Democratic secretary of state Jocelyn Benson and flipped the whole state legislature Democratic for the first time in 40 years.
Meanwhile, Kentucky defeated Amendment 2—a ballot measure that would have amended the state Constitution to say that nothing in the document can be construed to protect abortion rights. While abortion is already banned in the state, if the anti-abortion “yes” vote won, it would have permanently shut down any future challenge to the state ban. Rachel Sweet, campaign manager for the Protect Kentucky Access coalition, called the outcome a “historic win against government overreach” in a statement to Jezebel.
Anti-abortion politicians in the state had spent months spewing disinformation about the measure and toning down how extreme it is, but by Wednesday morning, multiple outlets declared the pro-abortion “no” vote the winner by a roughly five-point margin. Republican Sen. Rand Paul, who decisively defeated his Democratic opponent, way outperformed the “yes” vote in Kentucky, showing that support for abortion rights transcends party affiliation.
And in Montana, voters faced a deceitful measure that would criminalize doctors who don’t try to save infants who are hypothetically “born alive” after abortions, or intervene to keep a fatally ill baby alive. As of Wednesday afternoon, voters had rejected it by about five points. Organizers told Jezebel the purpose of the measure was to threaten doctors and perpetuate confusion and anti-abortion stigma.
“We get calls from clients sometimes asking if they would retroactively be punished. That level of fear and anxiety is part of the dangerous nature of this measure, which [backers are framing] as being about abortion and scaring people about having abortions,” said Aileen Gleizer, a board member of Montana’s abortion fund.
In the four months since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, we’ve seen doctors and pregnant people threatened with prison time, child rape victims and cancer patients forced to remain pregnant, and people with chronic conditions denied life-saving medication for being of “childbearing age.” Still, Democrats were warned that emphasizing these post-Roe crises was a losing cause and that abortion is a “deeply divisive” issue—notably, by the same pundits who failed to predict the fall of Roe in the first place. Tuesday’s election made it clear as day: Americans overwhelmingly, unequivocally want abortion rights.