Democrat wins Alabama special election considered bellwether on IVF, abortion


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Democrat Marilyn Lands won an Alabama legislature special election on Tuesday considered a bellwether contest on abortion and in vitro fertilization (IVF) ahead of the 2024 November elections. 

Lands, who made reproductive rights a centerpiece of her campaign in deep red Alabama early on by launching an ad in which she shared the story of her own abortion decades ago, defeated Republican Teddy Powell to win the open seat for state House District 10, the Associated Press reported, citing unofficial returns Tuesday. 

“Well I am so excited to get down to Montgomery, and I think this is a giant step forward for Alabama. I think it’s a victory tonight for women, for families, for Alabama in general,” Lands said on camera. “I want to get down there and repeal the bad ban on no exceptions abortion, I want to protect IVF and contraception, but I also want to be a champion for healthcare, mental healthcare but healthcare in general. I really feel like we need somebody down in Montgomery who understands mental health issues, and I’m that one.” 

The suburban district, encompassing parts of Huntsville and Madison, is considered one of the deep red state’s few purple swing seats. The position was vacated when former Republican state Rep. David Cole pleaded guilty to voter fraud last year amid allegations he rented a closet-size space to fraudulently run for office in a district where he did not live. 

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Marilyn Lands smiles in Huntsville

Democratic candidate Marilyn Lands walked the streets in the suburbs in Huntsville, Alabama looking to convince voters to support her on March 20, 2024. (Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Powell, a member of the Madison City Council, issued a statement conceding the race and congratulating Lands on her victory. 

The rare victory for Democrats in the Deep South state, where Republicans hold all statewide offices and hold a lopsided majority in the Alabama Legislature, comes after the state Supreme Court ruled that frozen embryos created during fertility treatments should be considered as having the same status as children under state law in wrongful death lawsuits. 

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey, a Republican, signed a bill into law earlier this month protecting IVF treatments after the February decision prompted some fertility clinics to pause their procedures.

The ruling was issued in a pair of wrongful death cases brought by three couples whose frozen embryos were destroyed at a fertility clinic when a patient from the hospital walked into the storage area, removed the embryos from a cryogenic freezer and dropped them on the ground. 

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Republican candidate Teddy Powell walked the streets in the suburbs in Huntsville, Alabama, on March 20, 2024.  (Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

The decision resulted in a flury of warnings about the potential impact on fertility treatments and the freezing of embryos, which had previously been considered property by the courts.

Republicans, including former President Trump, came out in support of protecting access to IVF after the ruling. 

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But Lands’ campaign also centered on Alabama’s ban on most abortion procedures ushered in after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. 

Abortion supporters at Biden's state of the union address

Maria Shriver holds hands with First Lady Jill Biden as Kate Cox, who was denied an abortion by the Texas Supreme Court, and Latorya Beasley, who had an IVF embryo transfer canceled following the recent Alabama Supreme Court decision, look on during the State of the Union in Washington, D.C., on March 7, 2024.  (ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP via Getty Images)

Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee President Heather Williams called the victory a “political earthquake in Alabama.”

“This special election is a harbinger of things to come. Republicans across the country have been put on notice that there are consequences to attacks on IVF – from the bluest blue state to the reddest red, voters are choosing to fight for their fundamental freedoms by electing Democrats across the country,” Williams said.

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Lands, a licensed counselor, unsuccessfully ran for the seat in 2022, losing by seven points to Cole. She will finish the term and will be up for election in 2026 when the governor’s office and other races will be on the ballot. Her opponent Powell, a former Defense Department budget analyst, had leaned into issues including the economy and infrastructure while Lands centered on abortion and IVF. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 



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