In Alabama, Abortion and IVF Helped Flip a Red Seat in a Special Election

Democrats say Marilyn Lands’ win offers a road map for using abortion rights to win elections.

Marilyn Lands flipped a seat in the Alabama legislature by campaigning on abortion rights.Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post/Getty

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On Tuesday, Alabama provided even more evidence of what we already know to be true: Abortion rights win elections

Democrat Marilyn Lands won a special election for an Alabama state House seat, flipping a Republican-held seat by campaigning on abortion rights in the deep-red state that bans abortion with no exceptions for rape or incest. Lands won 62 percent of the nearly 6,000 votes cast, while her challenger, Republican Teddy Powell, won 37.5 percent, according to the unofficial election night results from the Alabama Secretary of State. The candidates were running to replace Republican David Cole, who resigned last year after he was arrested on a voting fraud charge. (Lands ran against Cole in 2022 and lost by just under 1,000 votes, or about 7 percentage points—making her win last night all the more significant.)

Lands—a licensed professional counselor whose website says her “Christian values deeply influence her life and work”—campaigned on repealing the state’s abortion ban, as well as expanding Medicaid, investing in community mental health resources, and improving the local economy and education. Days after the state Supreme Courts decision threatening IVF last month, Lands released a campaign ad in which she and another Alabama woman, Alyssa Gonzales, each shared their personal stories of getting emergency abortions following nonviable pregnancies. For Lands, it happened 20 years ago; for Gonzales, it happened after the Dobbs decision was handed down in 2022. 

“We will not stand by and watch our most basic human rights be stripped from us,” Lands says in the ad.  

Tuesday’s election results once again demonstrated the far-reaching effects that abortion bans can have in galvanizing voters in decisive elections around the country. The trend can be directly traced to the Supreme Court’s Dobbs ruling, which was repeatedly cited throughout the Alabama Supreme Court decision that effectively banned IVF procedures. (The Alabama Legislature subsequently passed a bill, which the governor signed, to protect IVF access, but it didn’t address the legal status of frozen embryos.) 

While Alabama is reliably red—and the state legislature remains majority Republican—Lands’ district, the state’s 10th District, has been a battleground: Trump won it by only one percentage point in 2020, the Washington Post reported, while he won the state by more than 35 percentage points. Voters told the 19th earlier this month that they were going to vote for Lands because of her stance on abortion and reproductive rights. 

Lands told local CBS affiliate WHNT that she saw her victory as “a victory…for women, for families,” adding that she wanted to “repeal the bad ban on no-exceptions abortion” and “protect IVF and contraception.” 

“It feels like the start of a change here, and I think we’ll see more change in 2026. I think Alabama is changing,” she said.

Former Alabama Sen. Doug Jones (D) agreed, telling CNN that the results were “a huge win for Alabama, not just for Democrats.”

Lands’ win seems to send a clear message—one that advocates have been trying to send President Biden and other Democrats for some time: it’s reproductive justice that wins elections in the post-Roe era. And as long as Republicans’ anti-abortion policies continue to harm pregnant people—including those who aren’t seeking abortions—they’ll likely continue losing to Democrats like Lands.

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