The midterm election outcome sent politicians who oppose abortion into a near panic. After defeats in closely watched races across the country, these folks resorted to spin and deflection about how voters misunderstood their views.
But what’s abundantly clear as the campaigns recede from view? That Americans support access to safe and legal abortion — and rejected anti-abortion rights candidates at the polls.
Abortion Is Popular
Exit polls indicated that voters turned out to protect abortion access during this election. The 2022 Midterm Election Voter Poll, conducted by African American Research Collaborative (AARC), found that 74% of voters named the taking away of the constitutional right to abortion as a primary or important factor in their vote. In fact, in several communities of color — 44% of Black voters, 40% of Native American voters, and 39% of Latino voters — voters called the overturning of Roe v. Wade the “primary” reason they voted.
In state after state, voters sent the message that people deserve control over their bodies, their lives, and their futures. The cause of reproductive freedom won the day in every state where it was on the ballot in 2022:
In Michigan, voters amended the state constitution to protect the right to “choose to have an abortion and use contraceptives.”
In California, voters overwhelmingly supported Proposition 1 — with 67% voting to add the right to choose to have an abortion and use or refuse contraceptives to the state constitution.
In Vermont, 77% of those casting ballots voted to add the right to "personal reproductive autonomy" to the state constitution.
In Kentucky, 52% of voters rejected Amendment 2 — which would have explicitly rejected the existence of a right to abortion or the funding of abortion in the state constitution.
In Montana, voters rejected a measure that would have criminalized doctors and allowed politicians to interfere with families’ personal medical decisions.
The November victories for abortion rights at the ballot box reaffirmed the message sent in August when Kansas voters defeated an effort to eliminate a right to abortion in the state’s constitution: the American public overwhelmingly values the ability to make its own health care decisions.
Abortion Is an Economic Issue
Despite a news media that said voters would either vote on abortion OR economic issues, voters understood that people don’t lead single-issue lives.
The decision whether to become a parent has huge economic implications, and voters went to the polls and cast their ballots — as Planned Parenthood Action Fund President Alexis McGill Johnson told CBS News — based on that knowledge:
It was actually really surprising to us in the last few weeks before the election when people wanted us to pivot. They wanted to stop having a conversation around abortion and only focus on the economy and inflation as if we are single-issue voters. As if we don’t actually connect the dots around if and when you decide to become a parent, that in itself can be an economic decision for some. … So I do think that both parties underestimated, in some ways, how significant abortion continues to be and they also didn’t take into account that this was going to be the first time since the Dobbs decision that we had to express our outrage and betrayal. And that’s what we did, over and over again.
Here’s what voters know: the ability to control our economic security is inseparable from our ability to decide whether and when to become a parent. The candidates who campaigned on the things that matter most to voters — including abortion access, their commitment to helping American families in this tough economic environment, lowering the cost of prescription drugs, and planning for climate change — received voters’ support at the polls.
Attacks on Democracy and on Abortion Access Go Hand in Hand
Even with the strong rebuke voters sent to anti-abortion rights politicians at multiple levels of government — from statehouses, where reproductive rights champions made gains in governors’ offices and legislatures, to the races for the U.S. Senate, in which multiple foes of abortion went down to defeat — we can’t rest easy. Anti-abortion rights politicians were able to eke out gains in the U.S. House of Representatives, and the next session of Congress will probably have a House Speaker who opposes abortion.
What explains that outcome? Gerrymandering — a tool in the kit that anti-abortion rights and anti-reproductive freedom politicians have used to protect their unpopular goals. In states such as Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, South Carolina, and Texas, politicians worked with clinical precision to split majority-Black and Latino congressional districts. Such racial gerrymandering remains illegal under the sections of the Voting Rights Act that the Supreme Court has allowed to stand — but in 2022, time and again, the same Supreme Court that ended the federal right to abortion intervened to let racial gerrymanders take effect.
With the same six-justice majority hostile to reproductive freedom and voting rights still serving on the nation’s highest court, this much is clear: our battle to control our own bodies and futures isn’t over.
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