Despite Recent Wins on Abortion, Reproductive Rights Are Still on the Ballot in 2024

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Since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June 2022, voters have resoundingly voted in favor of politicians and policies that support reproductive rights. In August of 2022, voters in Kansas supported a measure to protect abortion rights in the State Constitution, as did voters in Michigan, California and Vermont during the 2022 Midterm Elections — an election year that netted a much stronger Democratic turnout than expected, likely due in part to the regressive, draconian abortion bans enacted in red and purple states across the country post-Roe.

This year’s election was no different. In Ohio, voters ultimately decided to enshrine the right to an abortion in the State Constitution, after rejecting a measure put forth by anti-abortion advocates during a special election this past summer that would’ve required a 60 percent supermajority, versus a simple majority, for passing a citizen-led amendment. In Virginia, voters denied Governor Glenn Youngkin a trifecta in the state’s General Assembly, with the Democrats flipping the House of Delegates and holding the State Senate; in the weeks leading up to the election, GOP candidates pushed Youngkin’s proposed 15-week abortion ban in the state, while Virginia Democrats focused on protecting abortion rights.

Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear, a Democrat who supports abortion rights, beat Republican challenger David Cameron, after focusing on Cameron’s support of Kentucky’s statewide abortion ban. And In Pennsylvania, Democrats won all four statewide judicial races, including a race for a crucial state Supreme Court seat that rules on cases of abortion rights. (The one major Democratic loss was in Mississippi, where Governor Tate Reeves beat Democratic challenger Brandon Presley — in that race, both candidates supported Mississippi’s abortion ban.)

There’s no question about it: voters like reproductive rights. The polls — which show support for abortion rights growing among Americans, not declining — agree.

The two-year wave in favor of pro-choice candidates and policies has been heartening for abortion rights advocates. But this trend will not necessarily hold in 2024. While Democrats tend to turn out more than Republicans in off-year elections, election experts suspect far more Republicans will come out to vote in the general election next year. Analysis has also shown that the Electoral College gave an outsized advantage to Republicans in the 2020 election.

President Joe Biden’s chances of winning reelection feel precarious even without those factors. His favorability rating is at a super-low 39 percent, and recent polling has shown likely Republican nominee Donald Trump leading him in five key states. He is only ahead of Trump by 1 percent among young voters, who have long been turned off by his age (Biden turns 81 this month). Many feel he has not delivered on crucial issues involving climate change and student debt; his more recent policies, including his ongoing refusal to demand a ceasefire in Gaza despite the measure’s support among voters according to one progressive think tank poll, may potentially cost him even more votes, especially in key swing states like Georgia and Michigan. Despite all this, he faces no credible primary challengers, and so far Democrats do not appear to be in search of a replacement nominee.

This is bad news for people who care about the right to have an abortion. GOP strategists are starting to figure out that anti-abortion policies are unpopular across the nation, and are urging Congressional candidates to state an opposition to a national abortion ban. GOP candidates vying for the presidency seem to be treading carefully as well — at last week’s GOP presidential debate in Miami, Nikki Haley remains “personally opposed,” and has not made abortion part of her legislative agenda. Chris Christie stated the issue should be left up to the states and even Ron DeSantis shied away from the concept of national ban. Even Trump, the man largely responsible for the fall of Roe v. Wade, doesn’t care to back federal legislation limiting abortion.

It would be nice to think that voters’ support of abortion rights would lead to the end of abortion bans. But just because candidates are pulling back their pro-life talking points, doesn’t mean GOP elected officials will stop trying to enact anti-abortion policies. The pro-life movement will not simply abandon a half century-long project to strip Americans of their reproductive rights and bodily autonomy.

Despite the 2022 vote in Kansas, Republican lawmakers are still trying to enforce anti-abortion legislation and restrict access to abortion pills. In Ohio, GOP legislators have vowed to fight back against the abortion rights initiative , and anti-abortion groups are already trying to find ways to put reproductive bans back on the ballot; Ohio Senator J.D. Vance said the vote in his state showed that Republicans needed to embrace a federal abortion ban, not back away from one. And there’s every indication that a stronger Republican Congress would take those steps, especially considering new Speaker of the House Mike Johnson’s career-long efforts to hamper reproductive rights. No amount of tone-switching, message-pivoting or softening the word “ban” to “limit” will stop the onslaught of attacks on abortion. The fight for abortion access is only just beginning.

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Originally Appeared on Teen Vogue

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