TO: Interested Parties
FROM: EMILYs List, Reproductive Freedom for All
RE: How Abortion Redefined the 2023 Elections, and What It Will Mean in 2024
DATE: November 30, 2023
During the 2023 off-year elections, abortion rights and access won big in states like Ohio, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Kentucky. With abortion bans in effect in 21 states and hostile politicians seeking to further decimate Americans’ fundamental rights, voters turned out in force to reject the GOP’s dangerous agenda.
More than a year after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade in its Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision, abortion remains a top issue, mobilizing voters in red, blue, and purple states to protect reproductive freedom through ballot measures and by electing candidates who will safeguard their rights.
Just like in the 2022 midterm elections and in special elections since Roe fell, a diverse coalition that supports abortion rights and access motivated by attacks on their freedom—including people across demographics and political affiliations—came together to secure victories in key states.
ABORTION REMAINS A WINNING ISSUE—AND IT SHOWS NO SIGNS OF WANING
Abortion has been directly on the ballot seven times since Roe fell, and all seven times voters have elected to protect and expand access to abortion care. In Ohio, where a six-week abortion ban went into effect post-Dobbs before being blocked by a court, voters approved Issue 1, a ballot measure enshrining abortion rights into the state’s constitution, by more than 13 points. According to exit polling in Ohio, a diverse coalition of voters who will be critical in the 2024 elections formed the base of support of Issue 1, including:
- 83% of Black voters;
- 73% of Latino voters;
- 77% of voters ages 18-29; and
- 64% of Independents.
In Virginia, Democrats trounced Republicans, flipping control of the state’s House of Delegates, and holding the Senate—securing Democratic control of the General Assembly. These crucial victories put a firewall between Virginians and the abortion ban Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin and his allies in the Assembly are pushing, and show that voters resoundingly reject not only the GOP’s efforts to “rebrand” their dangerous ban as a “limit” but their false claim that a “consensus” of people in the state support bans. Voters in the state took note of which candidates supported policies that protect their freedoms and understood who was trying to take them away. Democrats proudly ran on abortion, and they won.
In Pennsylvania, abortion played a defining role in what was expected to be a tight race between Democrat Daniel McCaffery and Republican Carolyn Carluccio for a seat on the state’s Supreme Court. Over the course of the race, Judge McCaffery proudly championed abortion as a fundamental right. Voters took notice, helping him secure a win by a seven-point margin. The victory comes after abortion also helped propel Gov. Josh Shapiro (D) and U.S. Senator John Fetterman (D) to victory during the 2022 midterm elections.
And in Kentucky, Gov. Andy Beshear won reelection in another race where abortion took center stage, defeating anti-abortion Republican Daniel Cameron. Gov. Beshear has been a vocal opponent of the state’s total abortion ban. As the state’s attorney general, Cameron defended abortion bans and restrictions during his time in office and highlighted his support for the state’s total ban while on the campaign trail.
REPRODUCTIVE FREEDOM MATTERS TO VOTERS
- 8 in 10 Americans say the decision to have an abortion should be made by the person who is pregnant. [Washington Post/ABC News, May 2023]
- By a 31-point margin (58%-27%), Americans describe the GOP’s abortion position as extreme, including Independents by 30 points (50% extreme – 20% not extreme), and a third of Republicans. [Navigator, Oct 2023]
- 75% of young people surveyed ages 18-34 said abortion should be legal in all or most circumstances, and 61% say they would take action to protect abortion rights. [Change Research/Teen Vogue, Aug-Sept 2023]
- 61% of voters disapprove of the Supreme Court decision overturning Roe—including 80% of female voters ages 18-49, two-thirds of suburban women, 60% of Independents, and a third of Republican voters. [NBC News, June 2023]
- Nearly three-quarters of voters agree that the GOP has gone too far on abortion and politicians need to back down, including a majority (51%) of those who voted for Donald Trump in 2020. [Change Research, May 2023]
- Americans overwhelmingly oppose a federal law banning abortion nationwide: 80%-14%, of those surveyed opposed it, including 65% of Republicans and 83% of Independents. [USA TODAY/Suffolk University, June 2023]
TAKEAWAYS FROM THE 2023 ELECTIONS
Voters won’t be fooled by spin or distracted by lies and blatant disinformation. They believe critical decisions about their bodies should be made by them—not the government. They do not want abortion bans. It’s that simple. As they watch people experience horrific and life-threatening situations because of Republican policies, they’re furious and have turned out to do something about it. As stories continue to permeate the news cycle and people see these harmful bans and restrictions impact their own families, friends, and communities, voters are bound to grow even angrier and to continue mobilizing to stop these attacks through ballot measures and by electing candidates who will protect their rights.
The GOP’s attempt to rebrand and paint themselves as “moderate” on abortion didn’t work. Glenn Youngkin invested over a million dollars into a dubious—but highly touted–campaign meant to paint the GOP’s abortion ban as something more moderate—but it failed. Knowing their bans are toxic with voters across the country, Republican presidential candidates continue to try to have it both ways when it comes to abortion.
Already, candidates like Nikki Haley and Donald Trump are deploying these tactics—bragging about supporting abortion bans while simultaneously trying to frame themselves as more moderate despite their lengthy records of attacking reproductive freedom. But even as they tie themselves in knots trying to obscure their anti-abortion platform, the bottom line is that they all support a national ban on abortion.
Right now, Trump is running ads in Iowa bragging about being the one to overturn Roe v. Wade. Just days ago, Haley proudly said she would sign a ban before most people even know they are pregnant and she’s promised to sign “any” national ban that crosses her desk if elected. Voters saw right through Republicans’ attempts to lie about their records in 2023, and they will again in 2024.
Abortion rights and access will remain salient heading into 2024—and embracing it is a path to victory for candidates up and down the ballot. As we’ve seen in every election since the Supreme Court ruled in Dobbs, this issue matters to voters. It helped make the difference for candidates up and down the ballot during the midterms and propelled candidates to victory in special elections and the 2023 elections. What we’ve seen time and again in these races is that when candidates run proactively on their support for abortion, they win.
At the same time, it’s critical for candidates who support reproductive freedom to let Americans know where they stand on protecting our rights and access to abortion. It won’t be enough to point out that the GOP wants to ban abortion; the contrast is important. American voters want and deserve more than protection from a worst-case-scenario national abortion ban. Knowing where Democrats stand is as important as knowing that Republicans are working to ban abortion. As polls have shown time and again, Americans want a national right to abortion codified into law: nearly two-thirds support re-establishing a nationwide right to access abortion in the U.S. with especially strong support among Democrats (+84), Independents (+34), and Black voters.
As voters just showed once again, they will support abortion when it’s on the ballot, and they will support candidates who do the same.