Abortion rights advocates won major victories Tuesday as voters in conservative-leaning Ohio decisively passed a constitutional amendment guaranteeing access to abortion, while those in ruby-red Kentucky reelected a Democratic governor who aggressively attacked his opponent for supporting the state’s near-total ban on the procedure. In Virginia, a battleground state where Republicans pushed a proposal to outlaw most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, Democrats were projected to take control of the state legislature after campaigning heavily on preserving access, the Washington Post reports.
The results sent a stark signal about enduring demands across the political spectrum to protect access to abortion more than a year after Roe v. Wade was overturned by the Supreme Court, heralding potentially far-reaching implications for the 2024 election. They offered more evidence that the end of Roe and the patchwork of abortion bans that followed have given Democrats a powerful argument to turn out their base and sway moderates and some Republicans. And they reaffirmed that GOP candidates who support restrictions are still struggling to find an effective message, even as some have tried to soften their pitch.
“If I were an anti-abortion politician, I’d be scared,” said Tresa Undem, a public opinion researcher who studies abortion and supports abortion rights.
The most direct test of abortion politics came in Ohio, where abortion rights supporters entered Tuesday optimistic that a ballot measure called Issue 1 would pass. Ohioans had already weighed in on a referendum viewed a proxy for the abortion fight, voting in August against a proposal that would have boosted abortion opponents’ chances on Issue 1 by making it harder to amend the state constitution. Preliminary exit polls had 1 in 5 Republicans and nearly two-thirds of independents backing the amendment, in a striking illustration of abortion rights’ popularity across party lines. With most of the vote counted late Tuesday, Issue 1 was projected to pass by a 10-point margin, while another ballot measure to legalize the recreational use of marijuana was projected to pass, 56 to 44 percent.
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