Abortion Wins in 2023 

By Erin Weber, Strategy and Policy Manager of State Advocacy

In the lead up to the 2023 elections, many Republicans went out of their way to avoid talking about abortion because they know their position—specifically their desire to impose further restrictions in additional states—is a losing one.  

Well, they lost. And they’ve been losing big. In the summer of 2022, the Supreme Court wrongly took away our federal constitutional right to abortion. And ever since then, there has been a growing drumbeat of voter support for protecting and restoring abortion rights. So, as we steel ourselves ahead of the upcoming fight in November 2024, let’s take a moment to recognize these huge wins. 

  1. Abortion rights centered in a swing district Congressional win in New York in April. 

In a special election, Pat Ryan won as a Democrat in a swing district in the state. He centered abortion rights in his messaging, which was considered a testing ground for centering abortion in campaigns. 

  1. Abortion became a central issue in state judicial races  

In Wisconsin, Judge Protasiewicz declared her support for abortion rights early in the race in campaign ads. This clearly resonated with voters, who turned out in record numbers to vote her onto the Wisconsin Supreme Court.  

More recently, with the majority on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court at stake, the election there also quickly became about abortion. Now that voters increasingly understand the central role that judges play in their lives and futures, McCaffery’s win builds upon Protasiewiscz’s and underscores that these races are just as important as any other election. 

  1. Ohioans approved a ballot initiative to enshrine abortion rights in the state constitution. 

Okay, get ready to celebrate because this one is worth opening that bottle of champagne. Republicans saw this ballot initiative coming months away—and they did everything they could to try to stop it. They even went so far as to try to increase the percentage of votes required to amend the state constitution in a blatant attempt to hamstring voters and silence their voices. Clearly, they were afraid that the issue would motivate voters, and they were right! 

  1. Virginia voters gave control of both legislative chambers to Democrats. 

There’s a lot to hate about Republican Gov. Glen Youngkin’s plans for Virginia. Going into the 2023 election, he highlighted one of his worst: a proposed 15-week abortion ban. He hoped to keep the Republican majority in the Virginia House of Delegates and flip the Virginia State Senate in order to push through his bad abortion bill. Voters heard him, and—in a resounding rebuke of the ban Youngkin peddled to them across the state—Democrats kept the Senate and flipped the House of Delegates. 

7. Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear (D) won reelection against Republican Attorney General Daniel Cameron. 

Even in deep-red Kentucky, abortion became one of the defining issues in the gubernatorial race. Gov. Andy Beshear openly supported abortion rights in his campaign and defeated Republican candidate Attorney General Daniel Cameron, who has championed extreme abortion restrictions in the state. Kentucky voters showed up and demonstrated that even voters support abortion rights.  

These wins all come after some exciting victories in 2022: 

Voters in Kansas voted overwhelmingly to keep abortion legal in their state in 2022. 

In the first test after the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision, voters in Kansas voted down a proposed state constitutional amendment that would have said there was no right to abortion. Kansas is generally considered a red state, so the fact that we could win here demonstrates how popular abortion rights are with voters across the country—and how out of step anti-abortion Republicans continue to be.  

Voters supported abortion rights through ballot measures in the 2022 midterm elections.   

We’ve also seen strong support for abortion rights in ballot measures across the country. Voters in Michigan, California, and Vermont approved ballot measures to protect the right to abortion in their state constitutions, while Kentucky voters voted against a ballot measure that would have weakened abortion rights. Indeed, when the public is given the opportunity to decide, abortion wins. 

If you look at the evidence since the Dobbs decision, clearly, abortion is a winning issue. But what does this mean? Beyond demonstrating the unpopularity of abortion restrictions, this is a call to action. Candidates must continue to center abortion in their campaigns, voters must continue to require candidates to clarify their positions, and we all need to amplify these successes as wins for all of us, democracy, and—ultimately—freedom.