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Campaign Week in Review: ‘Reproductive Freedom Has Won’ in Tuesday’s Elections

Ally Boguhn

Pro-choice advocates described this week's wins in Virginia and Kentucky elections as monumental victories for reproductive rights.

Join Rewire.News for a weekly look at how reproductive health, rights, and justice issues are popping up on the 2020 campaign trail.

Abortion Rights Groups Declare Victory After Tuesday’s Elections

Democrats scored major victories across the country in this week’s elections, flipping control of the Virginia General Assembly and scoring an apparent victory in Kentucky’s gubernatorial race. Pro-choice advocates lauded the wins as monumental for reproductive rights.

“Reproductive freedom has won the day,” said Kelley Robinson, executive director of Planned Parenthood Votes, of the election results. “Voters made their voices heard loud and clear that when politicians fail to stand up for our rights—including abortion access—we will take that fight straight to the ballot box.”

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“In a southern, traditionally red state, Andy Beshear ran a campaign that addressed abortion access head-on, vowing to protect Kentucky residents’ constitutional rights in the face of the Trump administration’s assault on Roe v. Wade,” Andrea Miller, president of the National Institute for Reproductive Health (NIRH) Action Fund, said in a statement. “ In defeating [Matt] Bevin, Kentuckians have made clear that they are ready to fight for every person’s right to make their own decisions about their bodies, lives, and futures. As we head into the 2020 campaign season, I urge candidates to look toward Kentucky as a reminder of the passionate support for abortion access in all corners of the United States.”

Kentucky’s race for governor was considered crucial for abortion access. The state is home to a single abortion clinic, and its current governor, Republican Matt Bevin, has sought to make sure that number drops to zero. Pro-choice Democrat Andy Beshear is the apparent winner in the race, and his campaign has declared victory. But Bevin, who trails Beshear by roughly 5,000 votes, refused to concede and formally requested a recanvass. Given that some leaders in the state’s GOP-held state legislature have signaled they may get involved, this race is still worth keeping an eye on. The recanvass is set for November 14, according to Secretary of State Alison Grimes (D).

Virginia Democrats’ decisive victory in Tuesday’s elections hands the party a trifecta capable of passing liberal priorities previously held back by GOP legislators. That could include codifying Roe v. Wade (Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam said on the campaign trail in 2017 that he supported an amendment to the state’s constitution to safeguard abortion rights), undoing the state’s forced 24-hour waiting period for abortion, and other efforts to safeguard and expand access to reproductive health care.

Reproductive rights aren’t the only big issue that may see a shift after Tuesday’s elections—Medicaid expansion eligibility, gun control, and the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment may all now see movement.

Beto O’Rourke Dropped His Criminal Justice Platform—Then He Dropped Out of the Race

Former U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke dropped out of the race for the Democratic presidential nomination last week. “Though it is difficult to accept, it is clear to me now that this campaign does not have the means to move forward successfully,” he said in a post on Medium. O’Rourke listed some of what he considered the highlights of his campaign, including his plan to address climate change and taking what he called “the boldest approach to gun safety in American history.”

O’Rourke’s departure from the race came a few days after he released his criminal justice platform in a post to Medium. His “Comprehensive Plan to End Mass Incarceration and Reform Our Criminal Justice System to Prioritize Rehabilitation” didn’t contain a section devoted specifically to reproductive rights, but it did include a vow to end “the deprivation of health care in prison.” He also promised he would enforce the First Step Act’s ban on shackling pregnant people and its requirement that the Bureau of Prisons provide menstrual products to incarcerated people.

As Vaidya Gullapalli explained in a piece for the Appeal, an independent news outlet focused on criminal justice issues, O’Rourke’s plan “reflects a public consensus among the field of Democratic presidential candidates that the scourge of mass incarceration must end and the pressure to announce ambitious plans in response.”

“What remains to be seen is how much of a priority criminal justice will be for the candidates beyond the primary,” wrote Gullapalli.

The release of O’Rourke’s criminal justice platform followed plans from other 2020 Democratic presidential candidates, including former U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro. Castro’s plan promised to address reproductive justice for the incarcerated including “requiring free access to reproductive health care.”

What Else We’re Reading

“Abortion Is Not a Losing Issue. Yesterday’s Election Proved It,” writes Bridget Read for the Cut.

Castro’s presidential campaign “will fire its staff in New Hampshire and South Carolina,” Politico reported on Monday.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) said she would undo a Trump administration policy banning transgender people from serving in the military “on the first day of [her] presidency.”

Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) has a new bill addressing the gap between when schools close and when parents get out of work.

2020 Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang spoke with LGBTQ Nation about how he would get the Equality Act through a Republican filibuster, and it is …. something.

“Single-Payer Advocates Are Being Drawn Into the Wrong Debate,” argues Libby Watson for the New Republic.

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) will face “an anti-abortion foe in 2020” the New Hampshire Union Leader reported.

Jed Duggar, a reality TV show star from 19 Kids and Counting, is running for a seat in the Arkansas State House of Representatives—and he’s already highlighting his anti-choice platform.

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