Races we’re watching
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Voters in two states backed constitutional changes in support of abortion rights.
Democratic and Republican governors in these states will have the power to sign or veto abortion-related legislation that could alter access.
In two states, Republicans failed to achieve supermajorities in both parts of the legislature that would be needed to override a governor’s veto.
Abortion rights advocates scored a string of victories in the 2022 midterm elections, winning over voters in Republican-leaning areas and protecting abortion in several states where access had been in jeopardy.
The Washington Post identified at least nine states in which the outcome of key midterm races has the potential to directly affect abortion laws, with many voters getting their first opportunity to cast ballots since the Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade in June.
These races include contests for governor and attorney general as well as those that will determine which party gains control of legislatures where power could shift. The Post also tracked ballot measures in Michigan and Kentucky, where voters decisively supported abortion rights on Tuesday night.
Key insights on the races
This analysis focuses on state-level elections because, since the fall of Roe, states have the power to ban abortion. It highlights contests that were rated as competitive by the nonpartisan Cook Political Report and focuses on races where candidates or party leaders have taken a clear position on the issue or vowed to address it.
We are not including races for the judiciary because the direct impact on abortion from the outcomes of those contests is less clear. Control of the U.S. House and U.S. Senate could also influence abortion access, as some Republicans plan to push a national abortion ban if the GOP wins power.
Here are the top nine states where abortion access hangs in the balance and election results are proving pivotal.
Current law Abortion is temporarily legal up to 15 weeks. A near-total ban first enacted in 1864 has been blocked by the courts. Read more
What’s at stake The governor’s office and control of the state legislature are up for grabs, and both outcomes could affect abortion policy. Democratic gubernatorial candidate Katie Hobbs, who has pledged to veto antiabortion legislation, was projected to win her race. Hobbs' Republican competitor Kari Lake said she would have supported a near-total abortion ban. And though Republicans currently hold a slim majority in both legislative chambers, Democrats can win power by flipping two seats in the House and two in the Senate. Democratic leaders have promised, if they win the majority, to repeal the 1864 ban, which has been blocked by the Arizona Court of Appeals but could be restored by the state Supreme Court.
Arizona also has a high-stakes race for attorney general. If the 1864 law takes effect again, Democrat Kris Mayes has promised not to prosecute people who seek out abortions or those involved in providing abortion care. While that kind of commitment likely would not provide enough security for abortion clinics to stay open, it would allow people in Arizona to distribute and use illegal abortion pills with less fear of prosecution.
Current law Abortion is legal up to 15 weeks of pregnancy under a law passed this year by the GOP-controlled legislature and signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis (R). Read more
What’s at stake Republicans firmly control the legislature, meaning the governor’s race was the one to watch. With DeSantis's victory, Republicans will have a clear path to heeding the calls of antiabortion activists in the state for a stricter abortion ban. Democratic candidate Charlie Crist had promised to sign an executive order protecting abortion rights on his first day as governor.
Current law Abortion is legal until cardiac activity can be detected, around six weeks of pregnancy, under a law signed by Republican Gov. Brian Kemp. Read more
What’s at stake Kemp and the GOP-led legislature will likely face calls from antiabortion groups to enact a total ban. Democrat Stacey Abrams would have been in a position to veto additional restrictions.
The race for attorney general could have implications for those helping people in Georgia to access abortion illegally beyond the six-week mark: Incumbent Republican Attorney General Chris Carr, a staunch supporter of the six-week ban, won reelection. Democratic challenger Jen Jordan had said she would not defend the law.
KansasResult: Pro-abortion rights
Current law Abortion is legal in Kansas up to 22 weeks of pregnancy. Read more
What’s at stake Kansans showed their support for abortion rights in August, when they voted overwhelmingly to reject an amendment that would have eliminated constitutional protections for abortion. Despite that vote, the Republican-led legislature could still try to push through antiabortion legislation. That will be more difficult — though still possible — with Democrat Laura Kelly projected to hold the governor’s mansion. Kelly has reiterated her support for abortion rights since the referendum. While her GOP opponent, state Attorney General Derek Schmidt, identifies as “pro-life,” he has said that the August vote should be “respected” going forward.
KentuckyResult: Pro-abortion rights
Current law Abortion is almost entirely illegal in Kentucky, under a trigger ban that took effect this summer. Read more
What’s at stake A referendum in Kentucky backed by antiabortion advocates, similar to the one in Kansas, was rejected by voters. The measure would have made it virtually impossible to effectively challenge antiabortion legislation in court, amending the state constitution to clarify that it does not protect the right to abortion. Abortion rights groups may now have a better shot at blocking Kentucky’s abortion ban.
Amendment 2 - No Right to Abortion
MichiganResult: Pro-abortion rights
Current law Abortion is legal in Michigan up to the point of viability, between 23 and 24 weeks of pregnancy. A 1931 abortion ban was blocked by the courts in September, but that ruling has been appealed and could be reversed. Read more
What’s at stake There were several contests that could determine the future of abortion access in Michigan, where Republicans currently hold majorities in both legislative chambers. The first is the vote for governor: Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who secured another term, made supporting abortion rights central to her reelection campaign and filed a lawsuit that has prevented Michigan’s pre-Roe ban from taking effect. Republican challenger Tudor Dixon had expressed support for the 1931 ban, saying she backs abortion bans without exceptions for rape or incest. Also, a successful ballot initiative backed by abortion rights supporters will now enshrine the right to an abortion in the state constitution.
The Michigan attorney general’s race was also one to watch, with Republican Matthew DePerno promising to enforce Michigan’s pre-Roe ban, and Democrat Dana Nessel, the projected winner, pledging the opposite.
Proposal 3 - Reproductive Freedom
North CarolinaResult: Mixed
Current law Abortion is legal up to 20 weeks of pregnancy. Read more
What’s at stake Republicans failed to win a veto-proof majority in both chambers of the state legislature to prevent the state’s Democratic governor, Roy Cooper, from blocking abortion restrictions. Republicans had needed to flip at least two seats in the Senate, which they did, and three seats in the House, which they failed to do. The GOP leadership has expressed support for banning abortion once cardiac activity is detected, or after the first trimester, around 13 weeks of pregnancy.
PennsylvaniaResult: Pro-abortion rights
Current law Abortion is legal up to 24 weeks of pregnancy. Read more
What’s at stake With Republicans holding firm majorities in both chambers of the state legislature, Pennsylvania was one GOP governor away from a strict abortion ban. The current Democratic governor, Tom Wolf, has pledged to veto antiabortion legislation — a promise echoed by Josh Shapiro (D) who won the race. Republican candidate Doug Mastriano, a state senator, sponsored a bill in the legislature that would have outlawed abortions as soon as cardiac activity is detected — and later asserted that women who get abortions after 10 weeks of pregnancy should be charged with murder. Mastriano had said that, as governor, he would welcome the opportunity to sign an abortion ban into law.
Current law Abortion has been almost entirely banned since June, when an 1849 abortion law took effect. Read more
What’s at stake The key races here were for attorney general and governor as well as several tight contests in the state legislature.
The only path to eventually restoring access to abortion in Wisconsin is a lawsuit filed by Democratic Attorney General Josh Kaul, who narrowly won reelection. His Republican challenger, Eric Toney, had pledged as attorney general to enforce the 1849 law and could have moved to dismiss Kaul’s lawsuit.
If the 1849 law is blocked by the courts, Wisconsin’s Republican-led legislature is expected to consider a “heartbeat ban” — which would outlaw abortion after cardiac activity is detected — in an upcoming legislative session. Democratic Gov. Tony Evers, who won reelection, will be in position to veto that legislation. His GOP challenger, Tim Michels, had said he would sign an abortion ban that includes exceptions for rape and incest. Republicans won a supermajority in the Senate but narrowly missed that mark in the Assembly, meaning they will not be able to bypass Evers.