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In election, support for abortion rights was about much more

To Mona Cohen, a lifelong Philadelphia Democrat, democracy is under attack in the United States. In the midterm elections, she lists a woman’s right to abortion as one of many fleeting freedoms she voted to defend.

Cohen, 68, feared the Supreme Court’s decision in June to eliminate women’s constitutional protections for abortion was only the beginning of a broader erosion of rights. So she backed Democrats in her state of Pennsylvania, where the party flipped a U.S. Senate seat and won the contest for governor against a pair of Donald Trump loyalists.

A government dominated by Republicans, Cohen said, “would have gone on to impede contraception, to impede marriage equality, to impede any kind of civil rights that we as a society have fought for in the past 50 years.”

Support for abortion rights did drive women to the polls in Tuesday’s elections. But for many, the issue took on higher meaning, part of an overarching concern about the future of democracy.

Women, especially Democratic women, were more likely than men to say the Roe v. Wade reversal was a top factor in their vote, according to AP VoteCast, a nationwide survey of more than 94,000 voters in the midterm elections. More women also said the reversal made them angry, and said abortion had a major impact on their decision to turn out and which candidate they supported.

But the future of democracy was an even greater factor than Roe for women voters. In interviews with AP reporters, many women linked their concerns about abortion to fears for the country.

Heading into this week’s election, Republicans were expected to seize control of Congress. That’s still a possibility, with several races too close to call, but Democrats denied Republicans the sweeping nationwide victory they had expected.

Abortion “may have made the difference in some key races where the elections were really competitive,” said Ashley Kirzinger, director of survey methodology at KFF, which designed questions for and published an analysis of VoteCast.

Many Democratic candidates advocated for abortion rights on the campaign trail. But they also cast their Republican rivals’ “extreme” attitudes on abortion as one example of a broader threat to the country’s democratic institutions, including its election systems.

In Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, Democrats who won tight governors’ races will appoint people who run the state’s elections. In Michigan, Democrats won races for governor and secretary of state, defeating candidates who opposed abortion rights and had denied the 2020 election results.

“Michigan is a good place to be right now,” said Ellie Mosko, 40, an attorney and mother of three in the Detroit area. Democrats also championed a successful ballot measure that enshrines the right to abortion in the state constitution. Moreover, Democrats took control of the state Senate for the first time in 40 years.

“The key issues for me are the preservation of democracy and voter rights,” Mosko said, “because without that we can’t preserve women’s access to reproductive freedom.”