Alabama Democrat Flips Seat in Special Election After Campaigning on Reproductive Rights

"Our legislature must repeal Alabama’s no-exceptions abortion ban, fully restore access to IVF, and protect the right to contraception," Marilyn Lands said in a statement after defeating her Republican opponent.

Alabama Democrat Flips Seat in Special Election After Campaigning on Reproductive Rights

An Alabama Democrat won a special election for a state House seat on Tuesday, flipping the Republican-controlled district where Trump won by one point in 2020. The Democrat, Marilyn Lands, campaigned heavily on the state’s total abortion ban as well as the recent crisis around IVF access—in February, the Alabama Supreme Court ruled that frozen embryos are “children” and eligible for wrongful death lawsuits, leading multiple fertility clinics to pause their IVF services.

“Today, Alabama women and families sent a clear message that will be heard in Montgomery and across the nation. Our legislature must repeal Alabama’s no-exceptions abortion ban, fully restore access to IVF, and protect the right to contraception,” Lands said in a statement on Tuesday night after defeating her Republican opponent, Madison City Council member Teddy Powell. Lands won handily by about 25 points—by contrast, in the 2022 general election for the same seat, Lands lost by seven points to David Cole, a Republican who last year pleaded guilty to a voter fraud charge (cool!) and resigned. 

Last month, access to IVF was thrown into chaos across Alabama when several fertility clinics paused IVF services and no one could transport their embryos out of state. Republican politicians across the country were put on defense over their policy position that “life begins at conception,” thus recognizing embryos as “children” and endangering IVF. Lands, who was endorsed by Planned Parenthood, capitalized on this, running in opposition to the state’s abortion ban and advocating for the Right to Contraception bill to fully restore IVF and protect access to contraception. Her campaign Instagram features a post warning against the “lifelong consequences of forced birth,” with the caption, “As a Licensed Professional Counselor, I’ve worked with victims of unspeakable crimes. Forcing women who have been raped to give birth to their attacker’s child has life-long physical and psychological consequences. As your legislator, I will work tirelessly to make certain that victims of these horrific acts of violence have the right to make this decision for themselves.”

Lands’ decisive victory after losing in 2022 is a pretty stark warning shot to anti-abortion politicians on the electoral consequences of their extremism. Alabama Republicans including Gov. Kay Ivey passed a bill earlier this month to enshrine protections specifically for IVF—bucking top anti-abortion organizations who opposed such a measure in doing so. (Of course, legal experts have questioned how much the law will protect fertility clinics, as the state Supreme Court ruling ultimately still stands.) But for a competitive district like State House District 10, the damage was done: the impact of anti-abortion policies that confer legal personhood onto embryos has never been clearer thanks to the disaster wrought in Alabama. 

Symbolic gestures and stated reassurances aren’t enough to distract from what abortion bans and fetal personhood tangibly inflict on people, between shuttered access to IVF and pregnant women facing criminal charges for “endangering” their fetuses. It will be interesting to see how dozens of House Republicans in U.S. Congress who have sponsored a bill recognizing that life begins at conception will fare in their own elections—especially those in competitive districts like this one in Alabama.


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A post shared by Marilyn Lands (@marilynforal)

Even before Lands’ victory this week, reproductive rights have played a transformative role in elections since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in 2022, and unpopular abortion bans have taken effect in over a dozen states, endangering and inflicting needless suffering on pregnant people. Pro-abortion rights ballot measures have won every state that’s voted on them. A poll from November showed abortion rights are a top priority for almost a fifth of the electorate.

In a crucial election year, the fiasco around IVF in Alabama offers a critical reminder of the rash of consequences of abortion bans that have already arisen, and the reality that worse or equally horrific outcomes will continue so long as health care is policed like this.

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