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Mid-Term Elections: Pro-Life Gains, and a Path Forward for Life

The final votes from yesterday’s election are still being counted, but what’s clear from the outcome is that courts matter and unborn children matter. With the Senate races called so far, according to Politico, Republicans have officially retained control.

The races that flipped Democrat seats are Rep. Kevin Cramer beating Sen. Heidi Heitkamp in North Dakota, Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley defeating Sen. Claire McCaskill, and Mike Braun defeating Sen. Joe Donnelly in Indiana. All three incumbent Democrats voted against confirming Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

On top of these great results, Gov. Rick Scott is current leading in Florida, although this race is not likely to be decided in the near future. Sen. Jon Tester in Montana emerged victorious after being locked in a dead heat with Commissioner Matt Rosendale.

But it’s not just the changed seats that are important. Retaining the Senate also meant keeping Republican seats Republican. Rep. Marsha Blackburn (TN-07) defeated Gov. Phil Bredesen for retiring Sen. Bob Corker, Rep. Martha McSally (AZ-02) holds a lead in Arizona to replace Sen. Jeff Flake, and Sen. Ted Cruz defended his seat against pro-abortion challenger Beto O’Rourke in Texas.

Not all Senate races turned toward a pro-life Senate. Sen. Dean Heller was defeated by Jacky Rosen in Nevada, and Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia was one of the only at-risk Democrats to maintain his seat. He was also the only Democrat to vote for Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

Unfortunately, while not unexpected, the House flipped to Democrat control, likely restoring Rep. Nancy Pelosi (CA-12) to the Speakership.

What does this all mean? It means that courts matter. In the Senate races, most of the at-risk Democrats who opposed Justice Kavanaugh were defeated. Because of these wins and continuing Republican control of the Senate, President Donald Trump will be able to continue to put judges on the federal bench – including potentially the Supreme Court – who practice judicial restraint, uphold the rule of law, and know that words mean something. Trump has already outpaced any other president in judicial placements during his first two years and there is now nothing to slow him down.

However, with the loss of the House, it is now going to be significantly more challenging to get any pro-life policies moved through Congress. With Speaker Pelosi, or any other Democratic Speaker, the House will likely seek to strip all protections for the unborn from legislation. The Senate will have to stand up on pro-life issues to even maintain the status quo. However, the recent history of the Senate, and its committees, suggests this may be a challenge. Firmly ingrained policies, such as the Hyde, Weldon, and Church Amendments are unlikely to be moved due to longstanding support. However, any pressure to curtail Obamacare abortion spending is now significantly more challenging and likely must reside with the states.

The states are ready for the fight, with a majority having Republican governors and legislatures willing to take on the challenge. In addition, these same states have the support of pro-life citizens. Both Alabama and West Virginia passed ballot measures that amend their constitutions to declare that there is no right to abortion under their constitutions. On the other side, states that are currently pro-abortion continue to become more and more extreme. Oregon rejected a ballot measure that would have prohibited taxpayer funding for abortion. A majority of Americans support such a prohibition.

In summary, this election went as most expected, with the Justice Kavanaugh proceedings playing a major role in the Senate races while the House played to historical practice with the President’s party losing seats. Overall, it reiterates the need to continue to push pro-life policies at the state level and not to leave it to Congress to ensure protections for the unborn and their mothers.

Bradley N. Kehr, J.D. serves as Government Affairs Counsel at Americans United for Life.