After a heated campaign, Alabama is heading to the polls to choose one of its US senators. Counting on solid support from Donald Trump and the national Republican party, Roy Moore faces Democrat Doug Jones, and the projections are so close pollsters have given up predicting a winner.
It’s been a controversial campaign, which just like the 2016 presidential election, has shown how far Republican leaders will go to promote party over moral values. Moore has been accused of sexual misconduct by nine women—most of whom say they were teenagers when it took place—and is on the record saying that America would benefit from getting rid of the constitutional amendments that abolished slavery, recognized the voting rights of women and people of color, and eliminated poll taxes.
Jones, on the other hand, does not appear to have compromised morals. Yet on election day, it is his beliefs that the people of Alabama are most concerned about: According to Google Trends, the top policy question asked about the candidates is, “How does Doug Jones stand on abortion?”
On Moore, people in Alabama wanted to know who supported him or whether he had been showing up on the campaign trail. What Moore has been accused of is only the fourth most-asked question, and none of the other searches are policy related. When it comes to Jones, it looks like a deciding factor will be whether or not he supports women’s reproductive rights.
Last month, in a televised interview, Jones was very clear about his beliefs:
I fully support a woman’s freedom to choose to what happens to her own body. That is an intensely, intensely personal decision that only she, in consultation with her god, her doctor, her partner or family, that’s her choice.
Further questioned on whether he supports banning abortion at 20 weeks, which was put forward for the nation in a recent GOP-backed bill and is the current law in Alabama, he said:
I’m not in favor of anything that is going to infringe on a woman’s right and her freedom to choose. That’s just the position that I’ve had for many years. It’s a position I continue to have
Moore, on the other hand, is a pro-lifer, and enjoys the support of Christian evangelicals, whose representatives have stretched themselves thin in order to justify his alleged behavior, including comparing sexual misconduct with a teenager to Joseph and the Virgin Mary’s relationship. Today, with their votes, citizens of Alabama are essentially deciding whether they believe fetuses’ rights should take priority over children’s rights.
There have been 56 bills aimed at restricting abortion rights presented to the state assembly since 2013. They have included one voted into law that approved providing lawyers to fetuses. A question on a constitutional amendment to add personhood at conception is headed to the polls. All of this makes Alabama one of the states where the right to abortion is most under threat. As of 2014, according to the Guttmacher Institute, which tracks and promotes reproductive rights, at least 93% of Alabama counties had no abortion clinics (at the time, there were nine clinics serving the entire state), and nearly 60% of women didn’t have access to those clinics.
Anti-abortion sentiment, widespread in the state, has been a major campaign theme. A broadcast ad targeting Doug Jones showed an ultrasound image of a fetus and called his position in favor of abortion “unforgivable.”
Based on popular attitudes as well as the legal landscape, the Population Institute’s latest evaluation (pdf) of reproductive rights in Alabama gives the state an F-, describing it as one of 20 in the country that is failing to provide sufficient reproductive services.