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Marilyn Lands Wins Alabama Special Election Using Abortion Rights Message

“Our legislature must repeal Alabama’s no-exceptions abortion ban,” Lands, a Democrat, said in her victory speech.

Democratic candidate Marilyn Lands is pictured canvassing in the suburbs in Huntsville, Alabama, on March 20, 2024.

A Democratic candidate flipped control of an Alabama state House of Representatives seat on Tuesday, running on a platform of supporting reproductive and abortion rights in a district that has long been held by Republicans.

Democrat Marilyn Lands defeated Republican Teddy Powell in the race, receiving 62 percent of the vote to his 38 percent in the Huntsville-area matchup.

The shift in voters’ preferences is remarkable — two years ago, when Lands ran against then-Republican candidate David Cole, she lost by 7 percentage points. Former President Donald Trump won Madison County, the county where Huntsville is located, by 8 points against President Joe Biden in 2020.

Cole resigned from his seat, creating a vacancy and thus the need for a special election, over charges against him of voter fraud.

The race itself won’t have much impact on Alabama politics, as Republicans will still control nearly three-quarters of the state House of Representatives, regardless of Lands’s win. But the contest garnered national attention as it was the first race in the state following a ruling by the Alabama state Supreme Court that frozen embryos are considered children under the law.

As a result of that ruling, several in vitro fertilization (IVF) clinics across the state temporarily closed. Republicans in the legislature, facing national pressure and outcry from state residents, quickly passed a new law granting immunity to IVF patients and providers. However, critics say the law doesn’t go far enough and continues to exist under the assertion that embryos are people with rights that are equal to (or greater than) those of pregnant people.

Lands made the ruling a central part of her campaign, promising to extend protections for IVF patients and companies. She also made protections for birth control and the removal of a statewide near-total abortion ban pillars of her campaign, even producing a campaign video in which she discussed her decision to get an abortion years ago for a nonviable pregnancy, noting that state residents can no longer get the same kind of abortion care under current state law.

The strategy paid off — Lands won her race with a 33-point swing in support compared to her 2022 attempt.

On Tuesday evening, Lands delivered her victory speech, touting her support for reproductive rights in her message.

“Alabama women and families sent a clear message that will be heard in Montgomery and across the nation,” Lands said. “Our legislature must repeal Alabama’s no-exceptions abortion ban, fully restore access to IVF, and protect the right to contraception.”

On the national level, the win for Lands showcases that abortion and reproductive rights remain a winning message for Democrats, even in parts of the country where the party has struggled to win in the recent past.

Several down-ballot races have indeed been won by Democrats in the two years since the U.S. Supreme Court upended nearly a century of abortion rights protections in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health ruling. A number of statewide ballot initiatives in support of abortion rights have also been won, in California, Vermont and Michigan in 2022 and Ohio in 2023. Ballot initiatives in Kansas and Kentucky, which sought to restrict abortion rights, were also defeated by voters in 2022.

At least three other states — Florida, Maryland and New York — are set to have initiatives protecting or expanding abortion rights on the November ballot, with the possibility that more states may join them in the coming months, pending the outcome of signature drives elsewhere.

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