As the U.S. continues to reckon with the overturn of Roe v. Wade, gubernatorial and state legislative elections have significant importance as the Dobbs decision leaves abortion rights entirely up to the states for the first time in nearly 50 years.
Midterm elections can bring about significant electoral losses for the political party that controls the White House and Congress, and Democrats are hoping that the fight for abortion rights can reverse this trend and motivate undecided or enthusiastic voters to head to the polls and vote for candidates and measures that support abortion access.
Because various states have since put abortion bans into effect, reproductive health will likely play a larger role in this year’s midterms.
Earlier this fall, we saw a potential preview of the impact of Roe’s reversal on state elections, as Kansas voted by nearly 20 points to keep the right to abortion in their state constitution. A victory in a traditionally conservative state like Kansas is a major win for the abortion rights movement, and could be indicative of results in similar referendums on Election Day. Turnout for Kansas’s 2022 primary nearly tripled the votes cast. If even a fraction of this increased turnout can be replicated tomorrow, it could be the deciding factor in helping Democrats hold onto their slim majorities in the House and Senate.
In the months since the Supreme Court’s reversal of Roe v. Wade, there has been a flurry of activity at both the state and local levels with regards to both sides of the fight for abortion rights.
Some of the news coming from states and localities has been encouraging, such as public colleges in Massachusetts pressing their state legislature to put safe, Food and Drug Administration-approved abortion pills on college campuses across the state or Atlanta voting to provide $300,000 to support folks getting abortion care in Atlanta.
Unfortunately, the most impactful decisions in the wake of Roe’s reversal have been ones aimed at eliminating reproductive rights.
Sen. Lindsey Graham and Rep. Chris Smith introduced a nationwide abortion ban. Sixteen states already have abortion bans in effect, with more expected to come — and the implications are disastrous. Abortion bans do not stop people from seeking abortion, but they do prevent people from accessing essential health care legally and/or within their state.
All of these decisions around reproductive rights have profound impacts on people living with and vulnerable to HIV. The attacks on abortion rights are linked with the decimation of access to care and restrictions on bodily autonomy seen to often across the U.S. Those pushing the attacks on the Affordable Care Act and access to PrEP (preexposure prophylaxis, a medicine that prevents HIV) currently in Texas and the regressive judges and politicians who want to deny the right to abortion are the same people who are fighting to criminalize the transgender community — all with the goal to roll back decades of progress towards racial and gender equity.
As HIV advocates, we know that medical privacy and bodily autonomy are central to our collective liberation and well-being, just as we know that abortion and reproductive health are racial and gender justice issues. We must act to ensure these rights are protected, and one way we can do so is by voting.
The midterm elections come as Americans face myriad issues outside of abortion access, including inflation, climate change and gun violence. But, abortion access may be the critical issue inspiring some folks go out to the polls. If Democrats don’t win the majority in the House or Senate, additional abortion restrictions beyond the existing barriers may go into effect on both the national level as well as the state level.
It is critical that we vote, as the outcome of the 2022 midterm elections will determine whether our collective goal of ending the HIV epidemic by 2030 is achievable.