By Karen Cross, NRL Political Director
Editor’s note. This appears on page one of the November digital edition of National Right to Life News. Please be sure to read the entire issue and forward stories to your pro-life family and friends. If you have a thought or two, please send them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The most important result of the 2022 midterm elections for the pro-life movement is undoubtedly that the Republican Party is on track to retake the U.S. House. As of our print deadline, Republicans need to carry just one more of the outstanding races to win the majority and seize the gavel from pro-abortion Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
This key victory gives the pro-life movement the opportunity to stop pro-abortion measures coming from the Biden Administration and the Democrat-controlled Senate dead in their tracks. Republicans will have the power to prevent the passage of radical pro-abortion legislation like the so-called Women’s Health Protection Act. This act aims to permanently enshrine abortion in federal law and policies, and strike down virtually all state-level protections for unborn children and their mothers like parental involvement and informed consent laws.
When the Democrats held the majority, they voted numerous times to eliminate longstanding pro-life policies and appropriations riders like the Hyde Amendment, which prevents the use of American tax dollars to pay for abortions in many federal programs. The Democrat vision of unlimited abortion nationwide for any reason until birth, funded with taxpayer money, is now far less likely to become a reality. Study after study confirms that pro-life measures like Hyde save lives. So, it is not an exaggeration to say that lives have been saved as a result of these elections!
Yet, some may look at the results of the 2022 elections with disappointment. They were not characterized by the kind of sweeping gains we saw in 2010, 2014, 2016, or even 2020. The Republican House Majority will be a narrow one, likely reminiscent of the thin majority the Democrats have held since 2020.
In the Senate, Democrats picked up one open seat (Pennsylvania) and defended all of their incumbent Senators. (With the exception of pro-abortion Senator Raphael Warnock who faces a December 6th runoff against football legend and pro-life Republican Herschel Walker.) Every Democrat incumbent hailed from a state that Biden carried in 2020. Republican incumbents also won their re-election bids, including Senator Ron Johnson in Wisconsin, the only one running for re-election in a state carried by Biden.
Republicans began the cycle at a disadvantage despite 2022 being a midterm year with a sitting Democrat president, factors which historically worked in their favor. Republicans had the task of defending more Senate seats, including seats in battleground states like Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, North Carolina, Florida, Iowa, and Ohio. The only seats in play for potential pickups were Arizona, Georgia*, New Hampshire, and Nevada- all states that Biden carried in 2020 and all states with Democrat incumbents.
In 2018, despite Democrats winning tossup House races and ultimately the House Majority, Republicans flipped 4 Senate seats (in Florida, Missouri, North Dakota, and Indiana). As mentioned above, this year, Republicans are on track to take control of the House and the Democrats flipped one Senate seat. *
Some may be inclined to point the finger at the pro-life movement as the cause of Republican underperformance in the elections.
Contrary to what you may hear in the media, standing up for unborn babies and their mothers did not encumber Republican candidates in the 2022 midterm elections. For decades, abortion has played a decisive role in U.S. elections, impacting how millions of both pro-life and pro-choice Americans cast their votes. The Supreme Court’s landmark ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson in June amplified the importance of the issue in 2022. In some battleground states and tossup House districts, abortion even ranked among the top issues on voters’ minds.
Pro-life Republican candidates fared best when they acknowledged the heightened importance of the issue and clearly articulated their position while contrasting it with the extremism of their pro-abortion opponents. Conversely, Republicans who attempted to hide from the issue squandered their opportunity to accurately convey their position to voters. By not taking a position or going radio silent, these candidates allowed their pro-abortion opposition to define them on the issue. It also allowed the abortion extremism of their opponents to go unchallenged. Virtually every Democrat running for federal office embraced a policy of unlimited abortion for any reason until birth and paid for with tax dollars.
In many races, pro-abortion Democrats who support abortion without limits, even late in pregnancy, were able to gain the upper hand on the issue by portraying Republican candidates as “extreme” on the issue. Yet, polling consistently shows that the Democrats’ stance in opposition to any and all limits on abortion is the one that is most at odds with the views of the voters. Many Republicans opted not to seize the opportunity to defend themselves and shift attention to their opponents’ out-of-touch views.
Pro-life candidates also had to contend with massive, well-funded onslaughts of misinformation and outright lies by the abortion industry that went unchecked by most members of the press. In Congressional races as well as state referendum and ballot initiative fights, pro-abortion forces made outrageous, factually inaccurate claims. That included the wholly inaccurate statement that the pro-life movement advocates for the punishment of women who have abortions (see the NRLC open letter condemning any such statute), that treatment for miscarriages or ectopic pregnancies would become illegal, and that access to contraceptives would be threatened.
This was the same playbook used during the fight over the Love Them Both Amendment in Kansas this summer. Members of the media, many of whom do not even try to hide their pro-abortion leanings, proved to be uncritical or just uninterested in correcting the erroneous claims coming from the pro-abortion side.
With the Dobbs decision granting states greater opportunities to pass protective measures for unborn children and their mothers, abortion became a central issue in many of the most competitive gubernatorial races.
Republican governors with strong pro-life records, who advanced protective measures for unborn children and their mothers in their states, scored decisive wins at the ballot box. Among these were Governor Mike DeWine in Ohio, Governor Brian Kemp in Georgia, Governor Ron DeSantis in Florida, Governor Kim Reynolds in Iowa, Governor Greg Abbott in Texas, Governor Henry McMaster in South Carolina, Governor Kevin Stitt in Oklahoma, Governor Kristi Noem in South Dakota, Governor Bill Lee in Tennessee, Governor Kay Ivey in Alabama, Governor Brad Little in Idaho, and Governor Mark Gordon in Wyoming.
Notably, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine, who signed the Ohio law protecting unborn babies when their heartbeat can be detected, won re-election by a 25-point margin. In Georgia, Governor Brian Kemp, who signed a similar bill into law, defeated well-funded Democrat rising star Stacey Abrams by more than 8 points. In Florida, Governor Ron DeSantis, who signed a law protecting unborn babies 15 weeks and older on account of their capacity to feel pain, won by nearly 20 points.
In fact, not a single incumbent pro-life governor lost his or her bid for re-election. Additionally, pro-life candidates prevailed in two gubernatorial races with open seats: Sarah Huckabee Sanders in Arkansas and Jim Pillen in Nebraska.
While the results of the 2022 elections did not match the “massive red wave” predictions of many conservative media personalities and right-leaning pollsters, there is a lot to be thankful for. The importance of retaking control of the House alone, even if by a small margin, cannot be overstated. This shift in power all but ensures top pro-abortion priorities like passage of the so-called Women’s Health Protection Act and the elimination of the Hyde Amendment are dead on arrival in the new Congress.
The fight for life goes on! We have come too far, and life is still worth defending!
*Georgia is not yet decided. Neither Raphael Warnock nor Herschel Walker passed the 50% threshold in the general election so they will face off in a runoff election on December 6th. If you live in Georgia, your vote is crucial (yet again)!