Reproductive Rights Did Not Win the Midterm Elections

By Ayana Byrd Nov 08, 2018

Many are lauding the progressive victories that came out of the midterm elections, including historic numbers of women of color winning races and Democrats regaining control of the House of Representatives. But it was not all good news. Two measures passed in state elections that greatly reduce a woman’s right to choose. Additionally, the Trump administration just revoked an Obama-era rule that required employers to pay for women’s birth control.  

West Virginia and Alabama passed ballot measures that change their state constitutions to make abortion illegal should Roe v. Wade be overturned by the Supreme Court of the United States.

Dr. Willie Parker, an ob/gyn, abortion provider and board chair of Physicians for Reproductive Health, released a statement that read in part, “In my home state of Alabama, a law passed that is so vague and dangerous that it strips away the rights of pregnant people and could ban any abortion care in the state. Also in West Virginia, a ban on abortion funding passed, where the impact will be felt most by women with low incomes, who will continue to face significant barriers to abortion access. I am heartbroken for my patients and the people of Alabama and West Virginia.

Though neither measure is intended to take immediate effect, some argue that Alabama’s potentially could. The state’s Amendment 2, which passed with 59 percent of votes, changes the Alabama Constitution “to recognize and support the sanctity of unborn life and the rights of unborn children, including the right to life.” It also says that there is no right to an abortion or funding for abortion. Per Rewire.News:


That means if Roe v. Wade is overturned, Alabama is poised to criminalize abortion across the board—including in cases of rape, incest or when the health of the pregnant person is at risk.




In fact, prosecutors in Alabama could, technically, begin enforcing an abortion ban immediately. They don’t have to wait for the Supreme Court to reverse Roe. Prosecutors could begin charging abortion providers for performing abortions under the state’s pre-Roe ban, testing the willingness of state court judges to defy federal law and let those cases proceed.

Since election Tuesday, there was also a national setback to reproductive health. Yesterday (November 7), the Trump administration announced that it overturned a part of the Affordable Care Act that required employers to provide contraception coverage for their employees, even if it conflicts with their moral or religious beliefs. A fact sheet released by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) says the changes—which are set to go into effect in approximately two monthswill impact between 6,400 and 127,000 women. But as ThinkProgress reports: “The National Women’s Law Center, however, estimates the rule threatens contraception for more than 55 million cisgender women and an unknown number of transgender and nonbinary individuals.”

It is a move that did not surprise reproductive health rights advocates. In the months since President Donald Trump’s inauguration, Planned Parenthood has seen a 900 percent increase in demand for long-acting reversible contraception, such as IUDs. “Many anticipated something like this would happen, and so they switched from daily birth control pills to intrauterine devices (IUD), which can last anywhere between three to ten years,” reports ThinkProgress.

Brigitte Amiri, deputy director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Reproductive Freedom Project, told The Washington Post that the new policy “is going to rob tens of thousands or possibly hundreds of thousands of women of their benefit that they’re guaranteed by law.” The ACLU is involved with two lawsuits challenging the rules.