United States pro-abortion rights advocates are celebrating a series of major electoral victories for Democrat candidates that are set to advance abortion rights, even in traditionally conservative states like Ohio and Kentucky.
Residents in several US states went to the polls on Tuesday to cast their ballots for governors, state legislators and other local offices, as well as to weigh in on state referendums.
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Abortion rights issues featured prominently in many of these races.
In Ohio, voters were asked to decide on an amendment to the state constitution that would guarantee the right to have an abortion. With 93 percent of the ballots counted, the amendment was on track to comfortably pass the measure, with 55.8 percent of voters saying “yes,” CBS News reported.
The outcome extended an unbeaten streak for abortion access advocates since the US Supreme Court’s decision last year to overturn its 1972 Roe v Wade ruling and eliminate a nationwide right to end pregnancies.
US President Joe Biden hailed the Ohio result, saying: “Tonight, Americans once again voted to protect their fundamental freedoms – and democracy won.”
String of victories
Advocates scored another key victory in Virginia, where Democrats retook full control of the General Assembly after two years of divided power. This will allow them to continue blocking Republican Governor Glenn Youngkin’s plan to pursue a ban on most abortions beyond 15 weeks after conception.
“It’s official: there will be absolutely no abortion ban legislation sent to Glenn Youngkin’s desk for the duration of his term in office, period, as we have thwarted MAGA Republicans’ attempt to take total control of our government and our bodies,” Virginia Senate Democratic Caucus Chair Mamie Locke said in a statement, referencing Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan.
In Kentucky, Democratic Governor Andy Beshear, who campaigned on abortion rights, was set to win a second four-year term, according to projections from pollster Edison. His victory is a major feat in an ultra-conservative state that voted for Trump by more than 25 percentage points in 2020.
Despite Beshear’s victory, he is powerless to reverse the near-total ban on abortion imposed by the state’s conservative Supreme Court.
In Pennsylvania, Democrat Dan McCaffery, a former judge and prosecutor who has positioned himself as an abortion rights defender, won an open seat on Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court. This preserves a strong Democratic majority on the court that is grappling with a challenge to state law on the use of public funds for abortion access.
Boost for Democrats
The success of abortion rights legislation and candidates validates Democrats’ strategy of placing abortion-related referendums on the ballot, including in conservative states.
They will press on with strategy in 2024 elections, pushing similar referendums in swing states Arizona and Florida.
The victories are also an encouraging sign for US President Joe Biden, who is trailing in the polls ahead of next year’s presidential elections and facing scrutiny for his response to the Gaza war.
Access to abortion in the US has come under renewed threat since the conservative Supreme Court overturned Roe v Wade, the landmark ruling that granted the right to abortion for nearly five decades.
This led to 14 states introducing near-total bans on abortion in 2022, and six others passing strict limits on abortion access.