Abortion vote in the US state of Ohio and other elections give Biden a boost

In a symbolically important success for US President Joe Biden’s Democrats, voters in the state of Ohio voted to enshrine the right to abortion in the state constitution. In the Republican-governed Midwestern state, citizens voted for the constitutional amendment in a referendum on Tuesday with a clear majority of 56.6 percent.

In another success for Biden’s party, Democratic Governor Andy Beshear was re-elected in the conservative southern state of Kentucky. The 45-year-old, who prevailed against his Republican challenger Daniel Cameron, also focused on the issue of abortion during the election campaign. Meanwhile, Republicans in the state of Virginia failed in their attempt to gain a majority in both chambers of the state legislature that would have allowed them to tighten abortion rights.

The outcome of the election gives Biden’s Democrats tailwind ahead of the presidential and congressional elections in a year. “Across the country, democracy won and Maga lost tonight,” Biden wrote in the short message service X, referring to his predecessor Donald Trump’s campaign slogan “Make America Great Again.” “Voters choose. Not polls,” the president added. “Now let’s win next year.”

Recently, poor polls for Biden, who is running for a second term in the presidential election in November 2024, shocked the Democrats. According to a survey published in the New York Times over the weekend, the 80-year-old is currently behind Trump, who wants to retake the White House in a year, in five of six important states.

Biden gets bad marks from voters because of his economic policy, among other things – even though the US economy is doing very well overall. The Democrats hope to be able to mobilize voters, particularly with the issue of abortion.

The US Supreme Court struck down the country’s basic right to abortion last June, triggering a political earthquake. Numerous states governed by conservative Republicans subsequently banned abortion or significantly restricted access.

In Ohio, a law temporarily came into force that bans abortions after the sixth week, at a time when many women do not even know they are pregnant. The law is currently on hold due to legal challenges – and will no longer apply with the outcome of the referendum on changing the state constitution on Tuesday.

The state now enshrines a constitutional right to abortion until the fetus is viable outside the womb. This is the case after around 22 to 24 weeks of pregnancy and corresponded to the US-wide legal situation until the Supreme Court ruling last year.

In the state capital of Columbus, abortion rights advocates erupted in cheers Tuesday evening when the outcome of the referendum was announced. “I can’t even put it into words,” 27-year-old Summer McClain told AFP. Other activists chanted “Abortion is health care,” “Your body, your rights,” and “Abortion is a winning issue.”

Meanwhile, the Democrats’ hopes of winning the gubernatorial election in the state of Mississippi were dashed. Democrat Brandon Presley, a distant cousin of rock’n’roll legend Elvis Presley, was clearly defeated by Republican incumbent Tate Reeves.

The Democrat’s prospects in the deeply conservative southern state were considered poor. However, good poll numbers had given Presley hope, who had promised, among other things, to expand access to health insurance during the election campaign.