GOP Holds Senate Majority After Incumbent Anti-Choice Senators Win Key Races (Updated)

The Associated Press reported Wednesday at 1:15 a.m. that Sen. Pat Toomey had won re-election in Pennsylvania, leading his party to cinch the Senate’s majority. Sen. Marco Rubio's victory came earlier Tuesday.

Candidate 1, 2, and three won their races in their respective states Tuesday night, all critical wins for determining which party will control the U.S. Senate. Drop of Light / Shutterstock.com

UPDATE, November 9, 3:27 p.m.: New Hampshire Secretary of State William Gardner declared Democrat Maggie Hassan the winner of the state’s close U.S. Senate race, unseating incumbent Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte.

Incumbent anti-choice Republican Sens. Pat Toomey (PA) and Marco Rubio (FL) won races in their respective states, both critical wins helping the Senate maintain their party’s majority in Congress. New Hampshire’s race remains too close to call as of Wednesday morning.

The Associated Press reported Wednesday at 1:15 a.m. that Toomey had won re-election in Pennsylvania, leading his party to cinch the U.S. Senate’s majority. Rubio’s victory came earlier Tuesday, and according to “complete but unofficial results” analyzed by the Tampa Bay Times, he secured his second term by roughly eight percentage points.

New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R) and challenger Gov. Maggie Hassan (D) remained locked in a tight battle Wednesday morning. Though the results are still too close to call, Ayotte currently holds a slight lead.

Though pro-choice Democrats Catherine Cortez Masto (NV) and Rep. Tammy Duckworth (IL) won their Senate races, other critical races for determining the chamber’s majority in states like Wisconsin and Missouri were all won by anti-choice Republicans.

The GOP also held the majority in the House of Representatives, continuing the dominance they’ve held in the chamber for the last six years. Congressional majorities will play a major role in determining policy and legislation in the wake of the 2016 presidential election.

Pennsylvania’s U.S. Senate race spent months in the national spotlight for its role in determining the Senate majority. With pro-choice groups such as Planned Parenthood Action Fund, NARAL Pro-Choice America PAC, and Emily’s List backing Democratic candidate Katie McGinty, her stance on protecting reproductive rights played a key role in her campaign.

During an October debate, both candidates spoke about later abortion care, and McGinty criticized her Republican opponent for his “out of the mainstream” views on abortion rights.

Toomey’s anti-choice stance was the subject of political ads in the state, trying to tie his views to Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s controversial statement that someone who has an abortion should be punished should it be made illegal, a stance on which Trump repeatedly shifted before clarifying that only the doctors who provide abortion care should be punished.

Toomey said in 2009 that he would support legislation outlawing abortion in Pennsylvania and “would suggest we have penalties for doctors who perform them if we were able to pass that law.”

Abortion care became a key issue in another critical U.S. Senate race when Florida was confronted with the impact of the Zika virus. An ad released by Murphy’s campaign in September criticized Rubio’s strict anti-choice platform, noting his opposition to exceptions in abortion bans for rape and incest—and for pregnant people infected with Zika who want to terminate their pregnancy.

Though Rubio’s campaign claimed the ad distorted the senator’s stance on the issue, he has a long history of opposition to abortion rights during his failed presidential run and his time in the Senate. Rubio has said he would sign anti-choice legislation with exceptions for rape and incest, but he has also made clear that he personally opposes a woman’s right to choose even in those cases. Rubio said in August that he does not support abortion as an option for those infected with Zika, which can cause an incurable fetal brain defect called microcephaly.

Murphy was endorsed by reproductive rights groups such as Planned Parenthood Action Fund and the NARAL Pro-Choice America PAC. In a press release from Planned Parenthood’s political arm announcing their endorsement, the group said he was ”the only candidate prioritizing women and families, at a time when reproductive rights are on the line.”

Murphy during his time serving in the U.S. House co-sponsored HR 448, the Women’s Health Protection Act. The measure would have banned states from enacting laws targeting abortion providers with restrictions that don’t apply to similar medical services.

Ayotte’s record on reproductive rights, meanwhile, has been the subject of months of back and forth between the campaigns during her closely watched race against Hassan in New Hampshire. Though Ayotte has often pointed to herself as a champion of women’s health, her opponents countered that many of the measures she supported failed to take on the issues at hand.

One such example is Ayotte’s support of legislation that would make contraception available over the counter—something experts say could make accessing birth control more difficult for many people.

During her time in the Senate, Ayotte has repeatedly voted to defund Planned Parenthood, and has supported numerous pieces of anti-choice legislation such as a medically and scientifically unsupported 20-week abortion ban. She also co-sponsored the failed “Blunt Amendment,” an attempt to exempt employers from complying with the Affordable Care Act’s birth control benefit if they claimed a moral objection.

In contrast, Hassan’s campaign website includes a promise to defend reproductive rights by “standing up to those seeking to defund Planned Parenthood, protecting health coverage that includes contraception, supporting efforts to make reproductive health services more affordable and accessible and fighting against efforts to undermine Roe v. Wade.” While governor, Hassan spoke about the importance of funding family planning services and voiced her support for Planned Parenthood.

CORRECTION: This piece has been updated to reflect Catherine Cortez Masto’s correct state.