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The right to abortion has once again won in the 2023 elections.

In several states where elections were held this year, access to abortion emerged as a winning issue for the second consecutive general election, even more than a year after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the "Roe v. Wade" decision.

Pushback Against the Red State

During a closely-watched campaign, Ohio voters approved a ballot initiative that added protection for reproductive health decisions, including abortion, to the state constitution, at least until fetal viability.

Kelly Hall, the executive director of the "Fairness Project," which advocates for ballot measures to advance progressive policies, stated that the passage of the amendment demonstrates that voters in a red state—with a Republican governor and legislature—are taking action to protect abortion rights.

"Ohio is the first state that I genuinely think we can put in the 'can go on offense and win' column," Hall said. "And it's an inspiring example that shines a light on the path for other red states."

Last year, a few months after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a longstanding abortion precedent, advocates for abortion rights secured victories in six states where abortion-related questions were on the ballot. In 2022, Hall noted, voters in blue states like California and Michigan mostly supported protective measures, while voters in red states like Kansas and Kentucky rejected attempts to restrict the procedure.

The passage of Issue 1 means that Ohio's law banning most abortions around six weeks of pregnancy cannot go into effect again.

The Ohio vote followed off-year elections in August when Republican lawmakers placed Issue 1 on the ballot, also known as "Release 1," which would have made it more difficult to amend the state constitution. Ohio voters rejected that proposal by a larger-than-expected margin.

Virginia Election Impact

Abortion wasn't directly on the ballot in Virginia as it was in Ohio, but it was a central issue in the campaign.

With the entire legislature up for re-election, Democrats managed to take control of the state's House of Delegates while retaining control of the state Senate—a significant achievement for abortion rights supporters in a state with a divided legislature and a Republican governor.

Sponsor Message

Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin supported a ban on most abortions after 15 weeks with some exceptions and actively campaigned with Republicans to try to create a divided government in Richmond.

Virginia is currently the only Southern state that has not restricted abortion in response to last year's Supreme Court decision. Abortion is currently allowed in Virginia until 26 weeks and 6 days of pregnancy. With a majority in both chambers, this law appears likely to remain in effect.

The Gubernatorial Race Impact

In Kentucky, Democratic Governor Andy Beshear won re-election after facing a challenge from the state's Attorney General, Daniel Cameron, who opposes abortion rights and has defended Kentucky's strict abortion laws in court.