News·6 min read

4 Key Midterm Races That Could Impact Abortion Access

Hand holding positive pregnancy test
Design: theSkimm | Photo: Getty Images
Sep 26, 2022

Updated on Oct. 24 with updates about state abortion guidelines.

Nearly all millennial women in our audience told us that reproductive rights are an important issue for them in the midterms. And 85% of Skimm’rs recently told us that they believe the country is headed in the wrong direction when it comes to abortion. 

In fact, more than 60% of Skimm'rs said if a candidate didn't support access to reproductive care (like paid parental leave and birth control) or abortion care, it'd be a dealbreaker for them. That’s more than double compared to our October 2019 survey, when just 29% of millennial Skimm’rs said access to reproductive care in general was a dealbreaker.

So what changed? Well, a lot. Let’s dig in. 

The state of reproductive rights

ICYMI: In June, the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade Which ended the federal constitutional right to an abortion. The Court’s decision in 1973 said the procedure was protected under a right to privacy – and was around for nearly 50 years. 

Since then, Congress has tried — and failed — to codify Roe. But President Biden has signed two executive orders to try and help ensure access to abortion. One would try and safeguard access to abortion medicine. And the other would protect women traveling across state lines for an abortion. But both fell short of what many abortion advocates had hoped for (think: setting up clinics on federal land). 

But abortion isn’t the only reproductive right that hangs in the balance. Think: IVF, birth control, abortion pills, Plan B, treatment for ectopic pregnancies, interstate travel, and more. And some complicated scenarios have already popped up. See: A mom and daughter were charged with abortion-related crimes after Facebook turned over their messages to investigators. Plus some patients are having a difficult time accessing forms of healthcare that have nothing to do with getting an abortion. 

Post-Roe, states have the power to decide whether abortion – and other reproductive rights – should be legal or not. And many states have already said “no thanks.” 

Where do abortion rights stand state-by-state? 

  • Near-total abortion bans have been enacted in at least 13 states.  

  • An abortion ban after six weeks has been enacted in Georgia.

  • A 15 week ban went into effect in Florida and Arizona.

  • Utah banned the procedure after 18 weeks.

  • Abortion in North Carolina is currently legal up to 20 weeks.

  • Eight more states have bans (of varying degrees) that have been temporarily blocked by courts and judges.

  • Note: Abortion is currently legal in 24 states, plus Washington DC. Though some of those states still have restrictions on things like the state’s ability to use gov funds to pay for abortions.

Power players: Who Actually has Control 

Many elected positions on your ballot can directly impact your state’s laws regarding reproductive rights. Some are: your state’s governor, attorney general, and state supreme court, plus who’s elected to represent your state in the House and Senate. (Learn more about these positions and others here.) 

Races to Watch

Whether through a ballot measure or a candidate, you could be voting on reproductive rights in the midterms. Here’s how.

Ballot Measures 

In five states, voters will get to cast their ballot directly on abortion access:

Measures to Protect Abortion Access 

  • California: SCA 10 would add the right to abortion and contraception to California’s constitution. Note: abortions are currently legal until fetal viability (aka when a fetus can survive outside the womb), which is generally considered to be around 24 weeks.

  • Michigan: Proposal 3 would amend Michigan’s constitution to protect reproductive rights (including abortion, contraception, and sterilization). A law that would ban nearly all abortions in the state was blocked. Currently, abortion is legal until viability.

  • Vermont: Proposal 5 would amend Vermont’s constitution to protect reproductive liberty. There are currently no limits for abortion. 

Measures to restrict Abortion Access

  • Kentucky: House Bill 91 would add an amendment to Kentucky’s constitution stating that it doesn’t secure or protect the right to abortion or funding of abortion. Note: Abortions are currently illegal in the state.

  • Montana: Abortions are currently legal until fetal viability. But a proposed law would consider an infant born alive at any stage of development as legal persons. And would require that medical care be provided to them – even following an attempted abortion. The measure, the Born-Alive Infant Protection Act, also targets abortion providers. If they violate the law, they could face up to 20 years in prison or a $50K fine, sometimes both.

Races To Watch: 

  • Arizona’s Gubernatorial Race

    • The candidates: Secretary of State Katie Hobbs (D) vs. Kari Lake (R)

    • Stakes: In September, a judge ruled in favor of allowing Arizona to enforce a law from the 1860s — enacting a near-total abortion ban. The ruling happened a day before a 15-week abortion ban took effect on Sept. 24.

    • What to know: Hobbs is Arizona’s current Secretary of State. She wants to repeal the abortion ban. Lake, a former TV anchor and 2020 election denier, describes herself as pro-life. And on her campaign site, she says she’ll focus on helping pregnant women. But in 2021, she tweeted that she wants a “carbon copy” of Texas’ abortion ban in Arizona.  

  • Michigan’s Gubernatorial Race

    • The candidates: Tudor Dixon (R) vs.Incumbent Gretchen Whitmer (D)

    • Stakes: A pre-Roe law— which would ban most abortions in the state — was blocked by a judge. So for now, abortion is legal until fetal viability. 

    • What to know: In April, Whitmer filed a lawsuit and used her executive authority to protect individuals’ rights to an abortion. Meanwhile, Dixon describes herself as pro-life — unless the mother’s life is threatened.  

  • Pennsylvania’s Gubernatorial Race

    • The candidates: Attorney general Josh Shapiro (D) vs. State Sen. Doug Mastriano (R)

    • Stakes: As of now, abortions are legal until 24 weeks of pregnancy. Because the current governor has vetoed anti-abortion bills. But the GOP controls the state legislature — meaning if Shapiro loses, abortion access in Pennsylvania could change. 

    • What to know: Shapiro — the current attorney general of PA — supports abortion rights. And on his campaign site, he says he will continue to veto any anti-abortion bills and expand access to reproductive care. Meanwhile, Mastriano’s campaign promises include signing the Heartbeat Bill into law (which would ban abortion if a fetal heartbeat is detected).And ending state funding for Planned Parenthood

  • Wisconsin’s Attorney General Race

    • The candidates: Incumbent Josh Kaul (D)vs. Eric Toney (R)

    • Stakes: In Wisconsin, abortion is currently banned — with no exceptions. 

    • What to know: Kaul, along with the state’s current governor, filed a lawsuit to challenge the ban on abortion. He said if he is elected, he wouldn’t use any resources to enforce the ban. Meanwhile, Toney – who is a county district attorney — has said if elected he would enforce the ban. 

theSkimm 

Since SCOTUS overturned Roe v. Wade, abortion rights have been left up to the states. And 75% of Skimm’rs told us that they are less likely to move to a state with limits on abortion — which could be the case in a number of states after the midterm elections. 

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