Abortion-rights advocates say Tuesday’s midterm elections are good news, but abortion foes have reason to celebrate too.
“This election is a major victory for women people of color, LGBTQ people and anyone in this country who cares about access to reproductive healthcare,” said Deirdre Schifeling, executive director of Planned Parenthood Votes, the political arm of Planned Parenthood, the women’s health care nonprofit group. “These results show women have had enough.”
Democrats took control of the House after voters turned out in record numbers. Republicans retained control of the Senate. With a Democratic House majority, Congress no longer has the votes to defund Planned Parenthood, said Dana Singiser, vice president of public policy and government affairs at Planned Parenthood Action Fund.
With a Democratic House majority, Congress no longer has the votes to defund Planned Parenthood.
However, ballot initiatives designed to restrict abortion rights passed on Tuesday in Alabama and West Virginia. Alabama passed a constitutional amendment to “recognize and support the sanctity of unborn life and the rights of unborn children, including the right to life.”
The Alliance for a Pro-Life Alabama, an anti-abortion group that campaigned for the amendment, celebrated its passage on Tuesday as a victory for those who oppose abortion on moral and religious grounds. However, reproductive rights advocates say the measure is vague and it is not yet clear how it will affect abortion access.
Republicans say they oppose “taxpayer-funded abortion.” Anti-abortion groups say the unborn have a right to life, believe life begins at fertilization and object to abortion on moral grounds. They comprise a range of views from those who believe abortion is wrong under any circumstance to others who believe it’s acceptable in cases of rape, incest or when a woman’s life is at risk.
Pro-choice groups say access to safe and legal abortion is a critical health-care issue for women. “In my home state of Alabama, a law passed that is so vague and dangerous that it strips away the rights of pregnant people and could ban any abortion care in the state,” said Willie Parker, a medical doctor and board chair of abortion-rights advocacy group Physicians for Reproductive Health in New York City.
“Because we all love someone who has had or will need abortion care, I know that no matter the personal feelings about abortion care, we can all agree that no one, especially politicians, should interfere in health-care decisions.”
Ballot initiatives designed to restrict abortion rights passed on Tuesday in Alabama and West Virginia.
The Alabama measure likely won’t have any immediate effect as it stands, but it would make abortion illegal if Roe v. Wade is overturned — a distinct possibility under the newly majority conservative Supreme Court.
Four other states in the U.S. — Louisiana, Mississippi, North Dakota, and South Dakota — have similar so-called trigger laws that automatically ban the procedure in the state if Roe v. Wade is overturned. The Alabama amendment will also prevent state funding from being used for abortion-related health costs, even in the case of rape or when the life of the pregnant woman in question is in danger.
Also see: In these American cities, women must travel more than 100 miles for an abortion
West Virginia passed a similar constitutional amendment that said “nothing in this Constitution secures or protects a right to abortion or requires the funding of abortion.” The amendment is expected to clear the way for ending Medicaid funding of abortions in the state. West Virginia and Alabama are currently two of 17 states in the U.S. that allow Medicaid funds to pay for abortions. In 2017, West Virginia’s Medicaid program paid $326,103 for 1,560 medically necessary abortions for low-income women, according to the Associated Press.
In Oregon, voters rejected a measure that would have prohibited taxpayer dollars from being spent on elective abortions.
The most common reason women seek abortions is being unable to financially support a child, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive health research think tank based in Washington, D.C. Women who are unable to obtain abortions are four times more likely to end up in poverty.
National Right to Life, an anti-abortion advocacy group, celebrated a number of Republican wins for anti-abortion candidates on Tuesday night, including South Dakota candidate for Senate Kevin Cramer, Texas candidate for Senate Ted Cruz, Florida candidate for governor Ron DeSantis, and Josh Hawley of Missouri, who beat out pro-choice candidate Claire McCaskill for Senate.
Despite these wins and the two ballot measures passed, reproductive rights advocates at Planned Parenthood called the night a victory. Some 71% of voters oppose overturning Roe v. Wade, a July poll from The Wall Street Journal and NBC News found. “We know attacks on abortion access won’t stop just because of last night’s election,” Singiser said. “But we do not think it’s indicative of the American people’s view on abortion.”
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Kari Paul is a personal finance reporter based in New York. You can follow her on Twitter @kari_paul.
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