Updated Mar 27, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Alabama Democrat flips state House seat after campaigning on IVF, abortion access

Pro-Choice protesters march toward the State Capital building during the March For Reproductive freedom in Montgomery, Alabama May 19,2019

Pro-abortion rights protesters march toward the State Capital building during the March For Reproductive freedom in Montgomery, Alabama, in 2019. Photo: Seth Herald/AFP via Getty Images

Marilyn Lands flipped Alabama's State House District 10 on Tuesday in a sign of the political staying power of reproductive rights in a rare purple district.

Why it matters: The special election in the reliably red state gained national attention as a litmus test for voters' responses to a campaign centered on protecting reproductive freedoms and access to IVF.

  • Lands, who ran in 2022 and lost by about seven points, made protecting reproductive rights central to her campaign, including sharing her own experience with abortion in a television ad.

Driving the news: "Today, Alabama women and families sent a clear message that will be heard in Montgomery and across the nation," Lands said in a statement after her victory.

  • "Our legislature must repeal Alabama's no-exceptions abortion ban, fully restore access to IVF, and protect the right to contraception."
  • The contest was the first in Alabama since the state Supreme Court's controversial IVF ruling in February, which upended in vitro fertilization treatments in the state and created a political dilemma for the GOP.
  • The Huntsville-area seat was previously held by a Republican, former state Rep. David Cole, who stepped down last year after pleading guilty to voting fraud.

City council member Teddy Powell (R), who focused on policy issues like infrastructure and the economy, faced off against Lands.

  • Lands won 62.4% of the vote to Powell's 37.6%, with all precincts reporting.
  • He conceded on Tuesday evening and wished Lands "the absolute best as she goes on to serve the people of District 10."
  • Powell's campaign had criticized Lands for not talking about the policy topics that they say have a broader, more immediate impact on voters.
  • "He's talking about the issues he knows about, he's talking about the issues he knows he can affect change on, he's talking about the issues that voters are showing interest in," Dalton Dismukes, an adviser to Powell, told Axios.

State of play: Campaigning on abortion rights has brought wins for Democrats up and down the ballot, even in red states, after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in 2022.

  • Support for abortion rights prevailed during the 2023 off-year elections, including in Ohio and Kentucky, where Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear kept control of his seat.
  • The outcome from Tuesday's Alabama race could serve as a blueprint for Democrats nationwide as they battle for the White House and key congressional seats in 2024.
  • DNC Chair Jaime Harrison hailed Lands' victory as a "referendum on MAGA Republicans' out-of-touch extremism on reproductive rights."
  • "Marilyn Lands' victory demonstrates that voters aren't going to sit idly by while MAGA Republicans lay the groundwork for a national abortion ban," Harrison said.

Between the lines: The district is a rare toss-up in the reliably red state. Republicans will still hold a supermajority in the Alabama legislature.

The big picture: The Alabama Supreme Court's ruling that frozen embryos are children drew swift national attention and condemnation.

  • The Biden campaign called the Alabama IVF decision "a direct result" of the 2022 Dobbs decision, which it has blamed on former President Trump and his appointment of three conservative justices.
  • Trump said that he supports IVF after the Alabama ruling and urged legislative action in the state.
  • Senate Republicans last month blocked a bill that would have protected federal protections for IVF, as many GOP lawmakers said that the bill was federal overreach.

What to watch: The DLCC, which heads the Democratic Party's efforts to win control of state legislatures, has eyed state-level races as a way protect reproductive freedoms nationwide, according to a memo the group published last week.

  • "We're going to see this issue continue to play out not just in this race, but in every race that we have going forward," said Heather Williams, president of the DLCC, which endorsed Lands.

Go deeper: Alabama IVF bills are a "Band-Aid" to explosive court ruling

Editor's note: This story has been updated with Alabama State House District Marilyn Lands' projected victory, comment from Teddy Powell and a statement from the DNC.

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