Young voters delivered big wins for abortion rights

By Ennedith Lopez | –

When the Supreme Court ruled Roe v. Wade lifted it, unleashing a wave of cruel new restrictions on reproductive freedom. But the shredding of a 50-year-old constitutional law also unleashed another wave: voters.

Lawmakers should take note: young people will resist radical efforts to violate our reproductive freedoms and futures.

The Republican “red wave” expected for this year’s midterms fell far short as younger generations mobilized to protect their reproductive rights from anti-abortion protesters. The results are still in the dust, but abortion has emerged as a key factor in boosting turnout among Democratic voters in the battle for Congress, state legislatures and the gubernatorial election.

In Exit polls, for example, 44 percent of young voters named abortion rights as their top concern, and the vast majority of them voted for Democratic candidates. These voters played a large role in shaping the next Congress and helped deny Republicans control of the Senate.

And perhaps they have played an even bigger role in the states now at the forefront of the struggle for bodily autonomy.

Kansas, a traditionally conservative state, was the first to anticipate high youth voter turnout in the Midterms. This summer, 59 percent of Kansas voters voted against a constitutional amendment that would have outlawed abortion rights in the state.

Again and again we saw similar results at this year’s Midterms. Supporters of abortion rights won big in ballot initiatives in six states.

Voters in California, Michigan and Vermont voted to enshrine access to abortion in their constitutions, setting an example for other states. In Kentucky, 52 percent of voters rejected an amendment that would have included an abortion ban in the state constitution. And in Montana, another 52 percent of voters opposed a “born alive” measure that could prosecute abortion providers.

Young voters also helped Democrats win state chambers in Michigan and Minnesota, putting them on the cusp of flipping one in Pennsylvania. In my own state of New Mexico, the Democrats won across the board.

New Mexicans currently have unlimited access to abortions, making the state a destination for people wanting abortions from Oklahoma and Texas. However, access to abortion is not officially codified in state law. In the upcoming 2023 legislative session, Democratic lawmakers plan to introduce a measure to do just that after the re-election of Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham.

Abortion rights weren’t the only measures on the ballot. A staggering 70 percent of New Mexico voters have enshrined a right to early childhood education in their state constitution. Voters in other states have raised minimum wages, expanded Medicaid, legalized marijuana and more. But there’s no denying that abortion rights have brought younger generations together to vote en masse in a way seldom seen before.

There is still work to be done – at least 22 million people of childbearing age still live in 15 states with total abortion bans. But lawmakers from both parties should take note: young people will resist radical efforts to violate our reproductive freedoms and futures.

Ennedith Lopez is a New Mexico Fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies.

Featured Image: Via Pixabay.