Economy 27-03-2024 13:02 5 Views

Democrat who ran heavily on abortion rights, IVF wins Alabama special election

Democrat Marilyn Lands on Tuesday decisively won an Alabama state House seat in a long-held Republican district, notching a special-election victory after centering her campaign on promoting access to abortion and in vitro fertilization.

Lands’s win was the latest in a string of Democratic victories around reproductive rights after abortion rights advocates experienced a huge blow nearly two years ago. Since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade — which had established a constitutional right to abortion — in 2022, Democrats have found success in battleground elections and ballot referendums by focusing heavily on protecting abortion rights and running against GOP opposition to them.

Lands beat Republican Teddy Powell by a wide margin — about 25 percentage points — in a politically moderate section of northern Alabama that Donald Trump won by a single percentage point in 2020. Just fewer than 6,000 people voted — offering a limited snapshot of voter attitudes.

But the race tested election-year strategies that Democrats are hoping to deploy well beyond the district and the state. Lands bet her campaign that voters in the suburban district were angry about the state’s strict ban on most abortions and the Alabama Supreme Court’s recent ruling that frozen embryos created through IVF were people, a decision that temporarily halted the medical procedure in the state and affected many families planning to use IVF to have a baby.

By flipping the seat, Lands will join a small minority of Democrats in the Alabama House that has pledged to make repealing the abortion ban and ensuring access to IVF a core mission. The former aim faces near impossible odds in a Republican-dominated legislature.

“From what I heard from the voters at the polls I was at, [reproductive rights] was a really big factor. And so many women came out. I had a woman with her young daughter wanting her to see history being made,” Lands said in a brief interview Tuesday night after her victory.

Powell, a Madison City Council member and retired Pentagon budget analyst, tried to avoid abortion and IVF as he ran for the seat and accused his opponent of trying to turn the contest into a national one while he focused on local issues such as fixing roads and schools. He joins a growing list of Republicans that have struggled to navigate the abortion debate politically in the post-Roe era.

In a statement Tuesday night, Powell wished Lands “the absolute best” and said he was proud of running a “tough and respectful” race. He did not mention abortion or IVF.

National Democrats including President Biden’s campaign weighed in on the outcome, saying Lands’s win shows how their candidates can win tough races by highlighting abortion as a focal point. Republicans were quieter.

The recent IVF ruling in Alabama reignited a debate around reproductive right across the country that Democrats hope will motivate voters to support them ahead of the general election in November.

“This special election is a harbinger of things to come — Republicans across the country have been put on notice that there are consequences to attacks on IVF — from the bluest blue state to the reddest red, voters are choosing to fight for their fundamental freedoms by electing Democrats across the country,” Heather Williams, president of the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, said in a statement.

Voters have supported abortion rights on ballot initiatives all over the country, including in conservative-leaning states such as Kansas, Ohio and Kentucky. In the midterms, candidates for Congress and other offices who ran heavily on abortion rights won victories that helped Democrats overcome once dim expectations.

The outcome in Alabama came as the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments Tuesday over restricting access to mifepristone, a key medication used in abortions. Biden’s campaign has also stepped up its attacks on Trump on abortion. As president, Trump appointed three Supreme Court justices who all voted to overturn Roe in 2022.

“Tonight’s results should serve as a major warning sign for Trump: voters will not stand for his attacks on reproductive health care. This November will be no different,” Biden-Harris campaign manager Julie Chavez Rodriguez said in a statement.

A Trump campaign spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Lands, a licensed mental health counselor, also made the issue personal. In a television ad, she shared her own abortion story from 20 years ago, when she terminated a nonviable pregnancy, and noted that women facing the same in Alabama today must leave the state to have an abortion.

Lands ran for the House seat in 2022 and lost by seven percentage points. Her Republican opponent, David Cole, resigned the seat and pleaded guilty to committing fraud by running and voting in the district using a fraudulent address, triggering the special election.

After her win, Lands’s supporters announced they had formed a state political action committee focused on electing more Democratic women to the Alabama state legislature in 2026.

This post appeared first on The Washington Post
Other news