When the Supreme Court of the United States ruled in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization in favor of the overturning of Roe v. Wade back in June, thus ending a woman's federal right to an abortion, the pro-life movement was jubilant. The decision was the culmination of decades of campaigning by conservative and anti-abortion activists to send the issue back to the states. Republican-controlled legislatures across the country moved immediately to place restrictions on abortion, and for the first time in decades, the pro-life movement finally felt like it had the upper hand.

Fast-forward five months...

When the Supreme Court of the United States ruled in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization in favor of the overturning of Roe v. Wade back in June, thus ending a woman’s federal right to an abortion, the pro-life movement was jubilant. The decision was the culmination of decades of campaigning by conservative and anti-abortion activists to send the issue back to the states. Republican-controlled legislatures across the country moved immediately to place restrictions on abortion, and for the first time in decades, the pro-life movement finally felt like it had the upper hand.

Fast-forward five months to the morning after the midterm elections and much of that optimism must have dissipated. Incandescent at the prospect of losing abortion rights, Democratic politicians and strategists sought to make the midterms a referendum on abortion. Republicans, meanwhile, anticipated that although public opinion was broadly against tighter abortion restrictions, the floundering economy and soaring inflation would take precedence. This appears to have been a misjudgment.

Although there is not yet a complete picture of results across the country, it is clear that if this election were a referendum on abortion rights, the Republicans have lost. In blue states such as California, Vermont, and Michigan, voters overwhelmingly supported amendments to codify the right to an abortion as part of the state’s constitution.

These results were broadly expected. Yet in deep-red Montana, voters similarly rejected a measure known as the Born-Alive Infants Regulation that requires doctors to fight to save the life of an infant “born during an attempted abortion.” In Kentucky, voters struck down an amendment stating there is no right to an abortion in the state’s constitution. Back in August, the state of Kansas also voted in favor of upholding basic abortion rights.

According to exit polls, around six out of 10 voters said they were “dissatisfied or angry” about the overturning of Roe v. Wade, while around the same percentage said abortion should be legal. This appears to have been reflected in results across the country. Republicans have fallen well short of the expected “red wave” and remain in a tight battle for control of both the House and the Senate. Races in blue states they’d hoped might have been competitive, such as Lee Zeldin’s run against New York Governor Kathy Hochul and Tiffany Smiley’s run against incumbent Senator Patty Murray in Washington State, were not so.

Despite the struggling economy and widespread unpopularity of Joe Biden, Democratic candidates appear to have made it over the line in a number of key races, in some cases even flipping seats from Republicans. The obvious explanation for this, particularly in a deep blue state such as New York, is a backlash from liberal voters against restrictions on abortion rights. In Pennsylvania, where leftist Democrat John Fetterman defeated TV doctor Mehmet Oz, 36 percent of voters cited abortion as the most important factor in their vote.

Nevertheless, a majority of even pro-choice advocates oppose the legality of late-term abortions and other extreme pro-choice positions promoted by several Democratic states. Yet that message failed to cut through. Just as the public rejects the extremity of the gruesome reality of late-term terminations, they also appear to have rejected those advocating against abortion with no exceptions, including cases of incest, rape, or when the health of the child is compromised.

What appears beyond doubt is that no matter its rights and wrongs, hardline abortion restrictions are not a vote-winner for Republicans. One solution would be to reach a bipartisan agreement around the position first coined by Bill Clinton that abortion should be “safe, legal, and rare.” Yet in these febrile and divided political times, anyone expecting an amicable compromise is likely to be in for a very rude awakening.