December 2023 Church & State Magazine - December 2023

Voters support abortion rights in elections across the country


Several states held elections Nov. 7, and when the political dust had settled, one result stood out: Reproductive freedom won big.

Victory! Abortion rights win big in Ohio (Photo by Andrew Spear/Getty Images)

Most notably, Ohio residents voted overwhelmingly to protect abortion rights by more than 13 points. This makes Ohio the latest red state to protect reproductive rights. The results are particularly striking because the vote means that a legal right to abortion will now be enshrined in the state constitution. 

The vote is also significant because Ohioans decided to buck the advice of leading Republicans in the state, just about all of whom opposed the ballot initiative, known as Issue 1. Voters also weren’t swayed by a misleading campaign funded by the hierarchy of the Catholic Church, which ran ads suggesting that protecting the right to abortion in the Ohio Constitution would lead to infanticide.

Abortion was not directly on the ballot in Kentucky, Virginia and Pennsylvania, but the issue played a decisive role in outcomes there. In Kentucky, incumbent Gov. Andy Beshear (D) fended off a challenge from Attorney General Daniel Cameron, who took a hard line on abortion. During the campaign, Beshear highlighted his support for legal abortion. 

Virginia voters kept Democrats in control of the state Senate and flipped the House of Delegates from Republican to Democratic control. Glenn Youngkin, the state’s Republican governor, had hoped to win a GOP majority in both chambers and tighten access to abortion. Democrats have made it clear that plan is dead.

In Pennsylvania, voters sent Daniel McCaffery to the state’s supreme court. McCaffery, a Democrat who supports legal abortion, defeated Carolyn Carluccio. Abortion was a big issue in the race. WHTM-TV in Harrisburg reported, “Following the U.S. Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade in 2022, Democrats hammered the issue of abortion rights in the state election, attacked Carluccio and argued that the Republican candidate could not be trusted to uphold abortion protections in Pennsylvania.” 

Opponents of legal abortion are aware that they have a problem on their hands. Writing on The Conversation, a website that features articles by academics, Anne Whitesell, assistant professor of political science at Miami University, noted that some anti-abortion groups are calling for dialing back the references to religion that often pepper their arguments. 

These organizations, Whitesell wrote, “are increasingly choosing to speak less about religion and more about human rights and science to combat the narrative that the anti-abortion movement is solely a Christian movement.”

A number of states also held races for school boards. Moms for Liberty, a Christian Nationalist organization that opposes the inclusion of LGBTQ+ material in public schools and advocates for censorship, ran candidates in dozens of races. Most were defeated, with the group suffering especially sharp setbacks in Iowa, Minnesota, Ohio and Pennsylvania. 

In the Central Bucks School District in Bucks County, Pa., for example, a slate of five candidates defeated conservatives and flipped the board to moderate control.

Victory! Abortion rights win big in Ohio (Photo by Andrew Spear/Getty Images)

Board meetings in the district, one of the largest in the state with 18,000 students, had become contentious as the conservative bloc moved to ban books and restrict the rights of transgender students. 

One of the successful candidates, Rick Haring, told WHYY-TV, “I think people just got sick of it. I mean, they were fed up with time after time things happening in the school board meetings and students not being listened to — just the lack of civility in some of these meetings.”

Not on our watch, Governor Landry!

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