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Abortion debate has dominated this election year. Here are Tuesday’s races to watch

Access to abortion has been a frequent topic in campaign debates and advertising, as it has since the U.S. Supreme Court issued its decision in June last year overturning Roe vs. Wade

Protesters are seen in the Wisconsin Capitol Rotunda
Protesters are seen in the Wisconsin Capitol Rotunda during a march supporting overturning Wisconsin's near total ban on abortion, Jan. 22, 2023, in Madison, Wis.Morry Gash (AP)

The most-watched races in Tuesday’s off-year general election have all been dominated by the ongoing debate over abortion rights. From a reelection bid for governor in Kentucky to a statewide ballot measure in Ohio to state legislative elections in Virginia, access to abortion has been a frequent topic in campaign debates and advertising, as it has since the U.S. Supreme Court issued its decision in June last year overturning Roe vs. Wade.

Here’s a look at three major races and how abortion has shaped each contest.

Kentucky governor

Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear seeks a second term in a heavily Republican state Donald Trump carried twice. The GOP nominee is Daniel Cameron, who succeeded Beshear as state attorney general.

Beshear has called the state’s restrictive abortion law “extremist” for not allowing exceptions in cases of rape and incest. He also vetoed a proposal banning abortions after 15 weeks. Cameron says he supports the state law and that as governor he would sign a bill amending it to allow rape and incest exceptions. But at times he has had difficulty clarifying what exceptions he favors.

Beshear, the son of former two-term Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear, was first elected in 2019 when he defeated GOP incumbent Matt Bevin by less than half a percentage point. Cameron is a former aide to U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and endorsed by Trump. If elected, he would become the first Black Republican governor since Reconstruction.

Ohio constitutional amendment on abortion

Ohio voters will decide whether to amend the state Constitution to protect access to abortion services. The measure would establish the right to “make and carry out one’s own reproductive decisions” on matters including abortion, contraception and fertility treatment. It would also allow for abortions to be banned once it has been established that the fetus can survive outside of the womb, unless a physician determines that continuing with the pregnancy would endanger the patient’s “life or health.”

In August, voters rejected a measure that would have made it more difficult to approve Tuesday’s abortion proposal. That contest was seen as a proxy fight on reproductive rights and received national attention.

Virginia General Assembly

Control of both chambers of Virginia’s state legislature is up for grabs, with Republicans holding a narrow majority in the state House and Democrats leading the state Senate. Either or both chambers could flip and possibly give Republicans full control of state government. That would clear the way for Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin to implement a ban on abortions after 15 weeks with exceptions for rape, incest and when the mother’s life is endangered. Democratic candidates have campaigned heavily on the issue.

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