Abortion Rights Prevent a “Red Wave”

Health & Gender Policy Brief #150 | By: Geoffrey Small | November 23, 2022

Header photo taken from: Emily Elconin / The New York Times

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Voters in four states voted on ballot initiatives related to state constitutional rights to abortion. Three states (California, Michigan, and Vermont) approved ballot initiatives to amend those states’ Constitutions to establish an explicit right to abortion. One state (Kentucky) rejected a ballot initiative that would have amended its state Constitution to declare that there is no right to abortion.

Photo taken from: Michelle Long / kff.org

Policy Summary

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As the dust settles from the 2022 mid-term election, it’s clear that the threat to abortion rights helped galvanized activists into bringing the prospect of a “red wave” down to a small tidal shift in Republican representation. An Emerson College poll conducted in July already predicted a tightening of the races after the Supreme Court overturned Roe V. Wade. 

It’s clear that abortion access motivated voters to the ballots. Despite the United State’s economic issues and low presidential approval ratings, which historically indicates a major shift in representation, Republicans are predicted to hold just a small majority in the House. An in-depth analysis between states with anti-abortion policies and states on the brink of abortion rights can provide more insight.

Policy Analysis

Anti-Abortion States

Anti-abortion states ultimately held their ground during the mid-term election cycle on high-profile candidates. Governors Gregg Abbot, Brian Kemp, and Ron DeSantis were reelected to their positions in Texas, Georgia, and Florida. Republican nominee Sarah Huckabee Sanders won decisively in the election for Governor of Arkansas. Also, Republicans J.D. Vance and Ron Johnson defeated Democratic candidates for Senate seats in Ohio and Wisconsin.

However, three major exceptions to the anti-abortion siege happened in the states of Montana, Kentucky, and Arizona. Montana rejected a ballot measure that would allow criminal penalties for health care workers providing abortion procedures. Also, Kentucky rejected a measure that would amend their constitution to state that abortion is not a protected right.

Arizona was also a state where legal definitions of abortion were thrown into chaos after the recent Roe V. Wade Supreme Court decision. Arizona’s 1864 law on banning abortion immediately became a predicament to activists in the state. The recent election results can be interpreted as a referendum on the archaic law. 

Republican nominee Kari Lake lost her election for state governor to Democratic Secretary of State Katie Hobbs. Also, Republican Senate nominee Blake Masters lost the election to Arizona gubernatorial candidate Mark Kelly.

Anti-abortion group (Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America and its partner super PAC, Women Speak Out) says it will spend another $1 million to support Herschel Walker in the Georgia runoff.

Photo taken from: Getty Images

Precipice States

States on the precipice of protecting abortion rights ultimately favored the right to choose. Michigan voted in favor of a ballot measure that would enshrine the right to an abortion under their state constitution. Vermont and California also voted in favor of similar measures. 

Michigan Governor, Gretchen Whitmer’s approval rating was bolstered enough, after the Roe V. Wade decision, for a decisive win over Republican challenger Tudor Dixon. Michigan Attorney General, Dana Nessel held her ground against Republican challenger Matt DePerno, who supported banning abortion with no exceptions. 



Other major losses for the anti-abortion agenda in Michigan include Republican nominees for the 3rd and 7th Congressional Districts John Gibbs and Tom Barret.

In the state of Pennsylvania, Attorney General Josh Shapiro defeated Republican Nominee Doug Mastriano for state governor. Democratic Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman beat Dr. Mehmet Oz for Senate in Pennsylvania. Both Oz and Mastriano made clear their anti-abortion beliefs during the campaign.

It’s no question that abortion activism helped prevent the predictions of a “red wave” taking over the United States. However, a major election between Georgia’s Democratic Senator Raphael Warnock and Republican challenger Herschel Walker remains undecided as a runoff will take place on December 6th. Donating to his campaign may help ensure a stronger majority in the Senate and the future of abortion rights in the United States.

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