2014 state elections and abortion

The election of 2010 swept hundreds of new pro-life candidates into state-level offices. It also opened the door for the passage of a record number of new laws over the last four years protecting both unborn children as well as women’s health.  Over that time, opponents have been promising retribution at the ballot box. Early signs indicate that the promised retaliation has yet to materialize.

Texas, the site of last year’s debate over omnibus abortion bill HB 2, features two gubernatorial candidates who have been active participants on opposite sides of the debate. Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, who has been successfully defending the law in federal court, looks to be a shoo-in against Wendy Davis, the pink-shoe-wearing state senator who garnered national attention for her filibuster against the bill. Every poll shows her down by double digits despite her raising millions of dollars in out-of-state money.

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Alabama Governor Robert Bentley (R), who signed one of the country’s strongest abortion clinic regulation laws in the country, is expected to cruise to re-election. Similarly, Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin (R), who has signed multiple new pro-life laws every year she’s been in office, is expected to win a second term easily.

In Nebraska, where the state supreme court weighed in on the specifics of the state’s recently enacted parental consent law, pro-life stalwart and businessman, Pete Ricketts (R), won a six-way primary virtually guaranteeing that he is the next governor of the state.  Pro-life governors in swing states like Iowa and Ohio look similarly secure.

Despite an extraordinarily high number of state legislative chambers already controlled by pro-life members, a number of additional state legislative chambers may become pro-life. On top of the list of possibilities are the Kentucky House of Representatives and the Iowa Senate.

In Kentucky, there is already a functional pro-life majority in the House despite the chamber being controlled by Democrats. However, the chamber’s Democrat leadership has blocked pro-life bills from coming up for a vote by assigning bills to the pro-abortion Health and Welfare Committee where they were killed to prevent abortion-supporting legislators in the House from having to be on the record. This year Democrat leaders killed a pro-life bill written by a Democrat and co-sponsored by more than half the chamber. The fact that a pro-life bill has not passed in nine years has some locals saying that days of the pro-abortion Democrat leadership are numbered.

A takeover of the Iowa Senate would mean the whole state leadership becomes pro-life, clearing the way for a backlog of abortion legislation. At the top of the list will likely be regulation of abortion-inducing drugs. Planned Parenthood has made Iowa their test state for experimental distribution of RU486 by doctors who only see the patient through a remote video connection and have women take the drugs and go self-abort at home.

Even some more moderate states may see significant pro-life gains. Colorado, Maine, New Hampshire and Oregon all could see pickups this year.

West Virginia will be an interesting state to watch. It’s the only state where there is a functional pro-life majority in both chambers of a Democratically-controlled state. In fact, the state legislature passed a ban on abortions after 20-weeks of pregnancy that was vetoed by Governor Earl Ray Tomblin after the session ended. With Democrats under attack on multiple fronts in the state, his veto may have undermined his party’s effort to keep pro-life voters in check and may hand control of the legislature to Republicans.

At this point, the pro-life majorities in only two state chambers appear to be at risk – the Pennsylvania and Wisconsin Senates. Of the pro-life governors at risk, none of them are vulnerable because of their work on pro-life issues.

According to the latest CNN/ORC International poll, 58 percent of Americans believe abortion should be illegal in all or most circumstances. Only 27 percent say it should be always legal. Given this disparity, it’s hard to see how abortion advocates plan to make good on their threat to punish legislators and governors who are passing laws such as those that protect both women from the harms of late term abortion and the unborn from fetal pain by prohibiting late term abortions after 5 months of pregnancy. In fact, the public seems to be rewarding them by sending them back to office to do even more.

McConchie is vice president of Government Affairs at Americans United for Life.