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Where Abortion Is on the Ballot

Now that the United States Supreme Court has returned the power to regulate abortion to the states, every election has implications for access. The 2022 midterms will bring the issue’s first big electoral test since the court overturned Roe v. Wade.

Five states have put abortion rights directly on the ballot with measures to amend their constitutions: California, Michigan and Vermont will ask voters whether to affirm a right to abortion, while Kansas and Kentucky will ask voters whether to reject it.

In other states, the outcome of competitive races for the legislature and the governor’s mansion in November could pave the way either for protections or for restrictions and outright bans. Races further down the ballot matter too, giving Americans more opportunities to vote on abortion, some with more lasting effects.

Ballot measures

Allow voters to amend the state constitution to say abortion is or is not protected.

State supreme court

Judges can rule whether a state’s constitution recognizes abortion rights.

State legislators

Can pass laws to ban or protect abortion, and vote to put measures on the ballot.

Governors

Can sign or veto bills to ban or protect abortion. Some can appoint high-court judges.

Attorneys general

Can choose to enforce or ignore abortion bans or protections.

In most states, the position on abortion is clear, and the midterms are unlikely to affect the status quo. But in at least seven states, highly competitive races within one or more branches of government could tip the balance in support of abortion access or further restrictions.

Abortion rights advocates and opponents are strategizing for wins up and down the ballot. And opponents and conservative groups in particular have been investing heavily in lesser-known races. Here’s a guide to the elections they see as most critical.

Arizona

Supreme Court

State Legislature

Governor

Attorney General

No ruling

Restrictive

Restrictive

Restrictive

With Republican control of the State Legislature and governor’s office, Arizona has enacted a ban on abortion at 15 weeks of pregnancy, set to take effect this fall. The attorney general wants an older ban on nearly all abortions to go into effect. The State Supreme Court has not yet ruled on abortion rights.

Supreme Court

State Legislature

Governor

Attorney General

Abortion rights advocates see opportunities to flip control of the State Senate or State House, where Republicans have just a two-seat margin in each chamber. And they are backing Democrats for governor and attorney general. Voters could reject up to three judges who are up for re-election on the court but could not change its Republican majority.

Supreme Court

State Legislature

Governor

Attorney General

Abortion opponents are aiming to maintain the State Legislature’s Republican majority and to fill open seats for governor and attorney general with candidates who oppose abortion.

Georgia

Supreme Court

State Legislature

Governor

Attorney General

No ruling

Restrictive

Restrictive

Restrictive

Georgia Republicans enacted a ban on abortion at six weeks of pregnancy, but the law has been blocked by a court since 2020. Competitive races for governor and attorney general could challenge lawmakers’ plans to further restrict abortion.

No election

Supreme Court

State Legislature

Governor

Attorney General

Abortion rights advocates are endorsing Democratic candidates for governor and attorney general, Stacey Abrams and Jen Jordan, who staunchly oppose the state’s ban. They are also backing several legislative candidates, though the midterms are unlikely to change partisan control of either chamber.

No election

Supreme Court

State Legislature

Governor

Attorney General

Anti-abortion advocates are rallying voters to maintain the status quo. The State Supreme Court, which has a majority of judges appointed by a Republican governor, held elections in May.

Kansas

Ballot Measure

Supreme Court

State Legislature

Governor

Attorney General

To restrict

Protective

Restrictive

Protective

Restrictive

The State Supreme Court ruled in 2019 that abortion is protected in the State Constitution, making it hard for Republicans in the Legislature to enact restrictions, even though they have a large enough majority to override a veto from Gov. Laura Kelly, a Democrat. If voters approve an Aug. 2 ballot measure denying any right to abortion, it would pave the way for bans.

Ballot Measure

Supreme Court

State Legislature

Governor

Attorney General

Abortion rights advocates are aiming to defeat the ballot measure and protect two judges who supported the 2019 ruling. Flipping three seats in the State House and State Senate could remove the Republican supermajority.

Ballot Measure

Supreme Court

State Legislature

Governor

Attorney General

Passing the ballot measure, which would deny the right to an abortion and could only be undone by passing another ballot measure, is a top priority for abortion opponents.

Michigan

Ballot Measure

Supreme Court

State Legislature

Governor

Attorney General

To protect

No ruling

Restrictive

Protective

Protective

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, has blocked the Republican-controlled Legislature’s efforts to restrict abortion. Her re-election effort and several races in the State House and State Senate are some of the most competitive in the country. A pending ballot measure would enshrine abortion rights with a constitutional amendment.

Ballot Measure

Supreme Court

State Legislature

Governor

Attorney General

Passing the ballot measure is critical for abortion rights advocates, who also see opportunities to turn over Republican control of the Legislature by flipping three seats in the House or four in the Senate.

Ballot Measure

Supreme Court

State Legislature

Governor

Attorney General

Abortion opponents are seeking to defeat the ballot measure and to flip the Democratic-majority court, as well as the offices of the governor and attorney general.

North Carolina

Supreme Court

State Legislature

Governor

Attorney General

No ruling

Restrictive

Protective

Protective

Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, has been a firewall against Republican efforts in the General Assembly to restrict abortion. The governor is not up for election this cycle, but Republicans would need to pick up just a few legislative seats to win a veto-proof majority. The State Supreme Court could lose its Democratic majority with the flip of a single seat.

No election

No election

Supreme Court

State Legislature

Governor

Attorney General

Abortion rights advocates are rallying voters to maintain the Democratic majority on the court and to keep Democratic seats in the General Assembly to prevent a veto-proof majority for Republicans.

No election

No election

Supreme Court

State Legislature

Governor

Attorney General

Opponents of abortion see an opportunity to flip the court’s Democratic majority and to give Republican legislators the power to override a governor’s veto by winning three seats in the House and two seats in the Senate.

Pennsylvania

Supreme Court

State Legislature

Governor

Attorney General

No ruling

Restrictive

Protective

Protective

The Democratic governor, Tom Wolf, has vetoed abortion restrictions proposed by the General Assembly but is not running again. The governor’s race is competitive, and a win for the Republican candidate, Doug Mastriano, would most likely lead to bans from a legislature that is likely to keep its Republican majority.

No election

No election

Supreme Court

State Legislature

Governor

Attorney General

Abortion rights supporters are backing Josh Shapiro, a Democratic candidate for governor, who will be a firewall against restrictions. Advocates also see a chance to flip a General Assembly chamber for Democrats, though voters would need to overturn five Republican seats in the Senate and 12 in the House.

No election

No election

Supreme Court

State Legislature

Governor

Attorney General

Abortion opponents are rallying voters to strengthen the Republic majority in the General Assembly and to elect the Republican candidate for governor.

Wisconsin

Supreme Court

State Legislature

Governor

Attorney General

No ruling

Restrictive

Protective

Protective

Gov. Tony Evers and Attorney General Josh Kaul, both Democrats, have sued to block a ban on nearly all abortions. They stand in opposition to the Republican-controlled State Legislature, which is a few seats away from a veto-proof majority.

No election

Supreme Court

State Legislature

Governor

Attorney General

Priorities for abortion rights advocates include preventing a veto-proof majority for Republicans in the State Legislature and re-electing the governor and attorney general.

No election

Supreme Court

State Legislature

Governor

Attorney General

For the governor and attorney general races, anti-abortion advocates are rallying voters to elect Republicans who oppose abortion. A flip of five State Assembly seats and one State Senate seat for Republicans would give the chambers the power to override a veto.

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