As soon as Justice Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement, debate ensued over who would replace him, specifically whether that nominee would attempt to overturn Roe v. Wade. While the Supreme Court remained the focal point for many, pro-life advocates continued the more immediate and ongoing work of advancing protection for unborn babies in the states.
As a result, abortion is on the ballot in three states in the midterms: Alabama, Oregon, and West Virginia. This democratic approach to abortion is both a healthy approach to a controversial topic and a good way to promote life.
GOP legislators are trying to make Alabama the third state, after Missouri and Utah, to formally protect the “right to life” by approving amendment 2. This ballot measure asks voters to determine whether Alabama should protect the rights of unborn children and essentially precludes abortion (although supporters say it does not “ban abortion”). Amendment 2 reads:
Proposing an amendment to the Constitution of Alabama of 1901, as amended; to declare and otherwise affirm that it is the public policy of this state to recognize and support the sanctity of unborn life and the rights of unborn children, most importantly the right to life in all manners and measures appropriate and lawful; and to provide that the constitution of this state does not protect the right to abortion or require the funding of abortion.
Advocates for the amendment think it has a good chance of passing, given the percentage of religious voters in Alabama. Alabama is one of the few states to recognize the “personhood” of the unborn. A few years ago, the Alabama legislature passed a capital punishment update that made it a death penalty offense to kill a pregnant woman, because that would mean two people were killed.
In Oregon, a measure to prohibit public funds from paying for abortions in Oregon, except in special circumstances like rape, incest, ectopic pregnancies, or a threat to a mother’s health, is on the ballot.
Oregon’s Democratic Governor, Kate Brown, who’s up for re-election, opposes Measure 106 and signed a law last year that required insurance companies to pay for abortions, regardless of circumstances. So far more than half of Oregon’s voters oppose the ballot measure, so it’s unlikely to pass, but it’s a good idea. And the fact that it reached the ballot and has gained so much statewide press is still an important step toward protecting life.
Moving on to the third state: The “No Constitutional Right To Abortion Amendment” would update West Virginia’s constitution, precluding it from adopting language that would protect a right to abortion or require funding of abortion. If passed, amendment 1 would ensure state Medicaid funds essentially wouldn’t be able to cover abortions. Despite telling people he’s an abortion moderate, the state’s Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin recently announced he will vote against the amendment. It is otherwise strongly supported in the legislature.
Many of the state and federal candidates campaigning in 2018 have been championing the cause of life long before Kennedy announced his retirement and the country started worrying about the fate of Roe v Wade. Despite so many changes in the political environment, abortion still remains a litmus test among some voters.
Several pro-life candidates have a good chance of winning their races this year. They represent a strong effort to combat the dishonesty of organizations like Planned Parenthood while promoting life-affirming policies. (Of course, implementing that change seems to be an entirely different problem, but getting elected is the first step.)
For example, Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill is under fire after video surfaced showing one of her campaign staffers describing how Planned Parenthood “sends money to her secretly so she will not look as pro-abortion as Missouri voters.” She is currently in a dead heat with the Republican candidate, Josh Hawley, who is pro-life. It would be a huge victory for pro-life advocates in Missouri to replace McCaskill with Hawley.
The Arizona Senate race is extremely competitive and both candidates are women. However, the Independent candidate Kyrsten Sinema is far to the left on the abortion issue; she voted to allow abortions up until birth. Her opponent, Republican Martha McSally, is pro-life. Planned Parenthood has waged an all-out social media attack on McSally, indicating they’re nervous. Currently Sinema enjoys a sliver of a lead, but pollsters are saying the race is a toss up.
Many of these pro-life candidates running for House or Senate seats are women, including Marsha Blackburn in Tennessee, Leah Vukmir in Wisconsin, and Karin Housley in Minnesota. The country assumes conservative women will be pro-life, but 2018 is a banner year for women running for political office. Now is the chance for women who are both pro-woman and pro-life to make the changes necessary to reflect those values once in office.
Abortion opponents have of course been working overtime to ensure that the House and Senate lose Republicans, for the obvious reason of keeping another pro-life justice off the Supreme Court, and to advance their legislative goals. Organizations like Planned Parenthood, EMILY’s List, and NARAL are spending more than $70 million on the midterm elections, just to try to take away the GOP majority. This should demonstrate just how pivotal these races are to the pro-life cause.
Decades after Roe v. Wade, pro-life measures are on the ballot and pro-life candidates are still vying for seats in office, showing this has been percolating long before anyone knew Kennedy replacement Brett Kavanaugh liked baseball or “might” overturn Roe v. Wade. Even better, it demonstrates how the culture of life is changing. If “politics is downstream from culture,” as the late Andrew Breitbart observed, the existence of so many pro-life ballot measures and candidates means they are reflecting or responding to a culture that is evolving away from Roe v. Wade and toward respect for the unborn.
Even though most pro-life advocates wanted an originalist like Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court, they have not relied solely on him or an opportunity to overturn Roe v. Wade to promote life. Instead, pro-life advocates have continued to work from the ground up. Because culture has shifted more toward life, it has influenced politics and law, which has affected state legislation, ballot measures, and local and federal races.