Since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June, eliminating the constitutional right to abortion and sending the issue back to the states, pro-abortion rights politicians and activists have been urging supporters to do one thing: vote in the midterms this November. Nearly 21 million women in the U.S. have already lost access to almost all elective abortions in their home states, per The Washington Post, and the elections this fall will be crucial in determining the future of reproductive rights across the country.
“One of the things the fall of Roe has done is reminded people that we need to be paying attention to races at all levels,” A’shanti Gholar, the president of Emerge, an organization dedicated to recruiting and training Democratic women to run for political office, told ELLE.com. “Right now we need a full-fledged effort from all offices to protect abortion rights.”
At the federal level, in order for any hope of codifying Roe and preventing Republicans from passing a nationwide abortion ban as some have threatened, Democrats would need to keep control of the U.S. House and expand their majority in the U.S. Senate. Advocates are also hoping to elect representatives who reflect the lived experiences of those affected by abortion care. “If we are having this conversation about women’s health care, we need to make sure we have a Black woman’s voice in the Senate to be a part of it,” Gholar said. Abortion restrictions disproportionately impact people of color, and as of now, there are no Black women and only three women of color in the U.S. Senate.
At the state level, legislators will be the ones to introduce and pass pro- or anti-abortion laws, while governors will be the last line of defense for stopping such legislation. Attorneys general, as the top law enforcement officers in their states, are also “key,” Gholar said, while judges in state-level courts wield power by potentially blocking or permitting abortion restrictions. (Find out more on how different positions at the state and local level affect abortion access here.)
Historically, it’s been difficult for the party in power to keep their majorities, especially during a midterm year, but with abortion rights on the line, it could motivate people to get out and vote. “We know the economy is a big deal, but what people aren’t talking about is abortion access is an economic issue,” Gholar said. “It is going to impact households.” And this November, every race is key to protecting that access. For a rundown of some of the most essential—and the most-talked about—elections, read on for ELLE.com’s midterms guide.
Currently, Arizona has a Republican governor, attorney general, and the GOP controls the state legislature, which passed a 15-week abortion ban that’s set to go into effect this fall, per the New York Times. (There’s also a pre-1901 ban on most abortions that’s not currently in effect.) Besides flipping the state Senate and state House, where Republicans hold slim majorities, here is where Democrats could gain some power:
Arizona’s current Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, a Democrat, is running for governor and has advocated for abortion rights, including sharing her own story of needing medical intervention after experiencing a miscarriage.
Former Arizona Corporation Commissioner Kris Mayes is running as the Democratic candidate for attorney general. She’s been a vocal supporter of abortion rights and tweeted, “It is critical that #Arizona women have bodily autonomy without fear of prosecution.”
As for the federal level, Arizona is one place where abortion activists are hoping to hold on to an essential Senate seat. Current Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly won a special election in 2020 and is now running for a full six-year term. Kelly will be facing off against Blake Masters, who has the support of both former President Donald Trump and billionaire Peter Thiel.
In Arizona’s 2nd congressional district, incumbent Rep. Tom O’Halleran, a Democrat, is running against Trump-endorsed candidate Eli Crane in an area that, due to redistricting, is now “solidly Republican,” per the Times.
Georgia, which currently has a six-week abortion ban in place, has a Republican governor, attorney general, and state legislature. While the Times reports it’s unlikely for either chamber of the legislature to flip, there are other races where Democrats hope to make headway:
Stacey Abrams, a former minority leader of the Georgia House of Representatives, is running for governor against incumbent Brian Kemp. If that sounds familiar, it’s because Abrams also ran—and narrowly lost—against Kemp in 2018. Throughout her political career, Abrams has been a staunch advocate for abortion rights and has said the six-week ban makes Georgia a “dangerous” place for women.
Georgia state Sen. Jen Jordan, who’s running as the Democratic candidate for attorney general, is also against the state’s ban and has spoken openly about her own miscarriages.
Similar to Arizona, Democrats are also hoping to hold on to a Senate seat in Georgia. Current Sen. Raphael Warnock won a special election in 2020 and is now running for a full term against Herschel Walker, a former NFL star whose campaign has been marked by scandal after scandal.
In 2019, the Kansas Supreme Court ruled that the state constitution protects abortion rights, and this August, Kansas residents rejected a ballot measure that would’ve removed those protections. Now, per the Times, Democrats are focused on voting for judges who supported the 2019 ruling and flipping three seats in the state House and state Senate to get rid of the Republicans’ supermajority, which currently allows them to override vetoes by Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly. Here’s where else Democrats are focusing their efforts:
Kelly is running to hold on to her seat as governor in a race that’s currently considered a tossup, per The Cook Political Report. She’s up against Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt who, according to NPR, has promoted false claims about the 2020 election and supported Roe being overturned.
Incumbent Democratic Rep. Sharice Davids, who also made history as one of the first Native American women in Congress, will have a tough race this November in Kansas’ 3rd congressional district, which is leaning more conservative after redistricting. Her opponent will be Amanda Adkins, who calls herself a “pro-life advocate” who’s “committed to supporting life from conception until natural death.”
Republicans control the state legislature in Michigan, where the current Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who’s up for re-election, has been a last line of defense in blocking abortion restrictions. (The courts also blocked a 1931 law that bans abortions and allows abortion providers to be charged with felonies.) Gearing up for November, Michigan voters have most likely secured enough signatures to get a constitutional amendment on the ballot that would codify the right to abortion in the state, and per the Times, Democrats are hoping to flip both legislative chambers with just a few seats and hold on to the governor’s and attorney general’s seats:
Incumbent Democrat Dana Nessel will go up against Matthew DePerno, a Trump-endorsed candidate who opposes abortions without exception, per Vox. While Nessel has said she would not keep county prosecutors from enforcing potential abortion bans, she would not prosecute people who perform or obtain abortion.
In Michigan’s 3rd congressional district, which was recently redrawn due to redistricting, Trump-endorsed candidate John Gibbs will go up against Democrat Hillary Scholten, who is hoping to flip the seat. Michigan’s 7th district, where incumbent Democrat Elissa Slotkin is running for re-election against Tom Barrett, has been redrawn to be more Republican, making her race one to watch.
The current Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak and Democratic Attorney General Aaron Ford are up for re-election this year, and Cook Political Report has named Sisolak’s race a toss up. While both are important, it’s unlikely much will change at the state level since a 1990 referendum established the right to abortion up to 24 weeks and, per FiveThirtyEight, it would take another referendum, in a state where a majority of the population supports abortion rights, to change that. However, there are other competitive races that could affect things on the federal level:
Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, the first and only Latina in the Senate, is up for re-election. Republicans have targeted her seat as one to flip this year and have nominated Adam Laxalt, the former Nevada attorney general, as their candidate. Currently, Cortez Masto is one of only three women of color in the U.S. Senate.
The incumbent Rep. Susie Lee is fighting to hold on to her seat in Nevada’s 3rd district, which has become a Republican target. She’ll be facing off against April Becker in a tight race; Becker has said she supports a ban on abortion that includes exceptions for incest, rape, and threats to a mother’s heath, per Vox.
At the state level, Democrats are working to keep their majority in the state Supreme Court and keep enough seats in the legislature to prevent Republicans from creating a supermajority that could override any of Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s vetoes. But there’s also an opportunity for North Carolina voters to gain an advocate for abortion rights at the federal level:
Former North Carolina Supreme Court Chief Justice Cheri Beasley is running against U.S. House Rep. Ted Budd, who’s received an endorsement from Trump. Whoever wins will take over for Republican Sen. Richard Burr, who’s retiring after this year.
While there likely won’t be as much movement at the state level, Democrats are looking at Ohio to possibly flip an open Senate seat:
Sen. Rob Portman, a Republican, will be retiring at the end of this year, leaving an open seat. The Democrats have put forward Rep. Tim Ryan as their candidate, while Republicans—with the support of Trump—have J.D. Vance, the author of Hillbilly Elegy. In the past, Ryan has voted for the Women’s Health Protection Act, which would codify the right to an abortion at the federal level.
Republicans control the state legislature and have even advanced a constitutional amendment that says there’s no right to an abortion in the state. While that particular measure would eventually be put to the voters, when it comes to other anti-abortion restrictions, Democrats have long had the support of Gov. Tom Wolf. However, he is term-limited and leaving office. Here are the details on that competitive race:
Pennsylvania’s Democratic Attorney General Josh Shapiro is going up against state Sen. Doug Mastriano, a far-right, Trump-endorsed candidate who’s adamantly anti-abortion. Mastriano has gone so far as to share a cartoon suggesting that Roe v. Wade was worse than the Holocaust and said he supports penalties for doctors who provide abortion care, per Vox.
On the federal level, Democrats also have the opportunity to pick up a Senate seat that CNN calls the “most likely to flip.” Republican Sen. Pat Toomey is retiring, and Democratic Lt. Gov. John Fetterman is running against the Trump-endorsed celebrity doctor Mehmet Oz. Fetterman has said that he considers the right to an abortion “non-negotiable.”
Current Democratic Rep. Conor Lamb isn’t running for re-election in Pennsylvania’s 17th district, leaving the seat up for grabs. The race is now between Democratic veteran and voting rights attorney Chris Deluzio and Republican businessman Jeremy Shaffer.
Democratic Gov. Tony Evers and Attorney General Josh Kaul have been working to block a pre-Roe abortion ban that is currently in effect, while Wisconsin’s state legislature is close to having a veto-proof Republican majority, per the Times. More about Evers’ and Kaul’s re-election campaigns:
Evers attempted to repeal the state’s 1849 abortion ban, which prohibits almost all abortions, and he’s pledged to grant clemency to anyone charged under the law. Come November, he’ll be facing Trump-endorsed candidate Tim Michels.
Kaul has similarly said he won’t enforce the state’s ban, though local officials still could. Eric Toney, his opponent, has taken the opposite stance.
On the federal level, progressives are hoping to pick up a Senate seat with Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, who’s going up against the Republican incumbent Sen. Ron Johnson. Barnes is pro-abortion rights and even released an ad with his mother where they share her personal abortion story.
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A few more elections to keep an eye on: Incumbent Democrat Rep. Abigail Spanberger is hoping to win against anti-abortion candidate Yesli Vega in Virginia’s 7th district; Democrat Christy Smith is hoping to defeat Republican incumbent Rep. Mike Garcia in California’s 27th district; and in Colorado’s newly created 8th district, Democratic state Rep. Yadira Caraveo is going up against Republican state Sen. Barbara Kirkmeyer. Rep. Val Demings is also running for a closely-watched Senate seat in Florida against Republican incumbent Sen. Marco Rubio.
Voting is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to securing affordable, humane, and safe abortion care in the United States. For more to do, start with the Center for Reproductive Rights’ guide.
Madison is a senior writer/editor at ELLE.com, covering news, politics, and culture. When she’s not on the internet, you can most likely find her taking a nap or eating banana bread.