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POLICY REPORTS/2004 Federal Election Wrap-Up

The outcome of the election of 2004 presents difficulties for the pro-choice community. Democrats failed to retake the White House and lost seats in both Houses of Congress. Within two days of the election, President Bush vowed to spend the political capital he earned in the election. His agenda will most likely include signing anti-choice legislative initiatives and making anti-choice judicial appointments to the federal courts and the Supreme Court.

The following charts illustrate the make-up of the 109th Congress:








51 needed for majority.










218 needed for majority.



Source: CNN.com
  Key: Darker red/darker blue indicates Senators not up for reelection
Lighter red/lighter blue indicates newly elected Senators

In total, the Republicans enjoyed a net gain of four seats in the Senate and four seats in the House of Representatives. This election resulted in a net loss of choice supporters in both the Senate and the House of Representatives.

In the Senate:

  • 29 Senators with pro-choice voting records (29 in 108th Congress)
  • 20 Senators with mixed voting records (22 in the 108th Congress)
  • 51 Senators with anti-choice voting records (49 in the 108th Congress)

In the House of Representatives:

  • 140 Members with pro-choice voting records (138 in 108th Congress)
  • 62 Members with mixed voting records (69 in the 108th Congress)
  • At least 231 Members with anti-choice voting records (228 in the 108th Congress)

Although these numbers are not drastically different from the make-up of the 108th Congress, pro-choice members will still face uphill battles as they try to pass pro-choice legislation, and anti-choice members could very well have more support for their initiatives.

Key Senate Races


In one of the two victories for Democrats (see Illinois below for the other), State Attorney General Ken Salazar defeated beer mogul Peter Coors for the seat currently held by retiring Ben "Nighthorse" Campbell. Salazar supports abortion, although with some restrictions such as parental notification, and believes that abortion bans should be legal except to save the life or health of the woman.


Retiring Senator Bob Graham leaves his seat to former HUD Secretary Mel Martinez in one of the closest races of this election. Martinez edged out Democrat Betty Castor to win the seat by a slim margin. Martinez is anti choice and vocal in his opposition to abortion. He has publicly supported the Federal Abortion Ban as well as the Unborn Victims of Violence Act and will continue to pursue anti choice initiatives in the Senate.


Senator Zell Miller retired, leaving his seat to Rep. Johnny Isakson. Isakson edged out Rep. Denise Majette, representing another loss for Democrats. Rep. Isakson is also an opponent of abortion and choice who has been vocal in his opposition during his tenure in the House of Representatives.


In the second of two victories for Democrats (see Colorado above for the other), choice supporters have a welcome ally. Illinois State Senator Barack Obama defeated Alan Keyes to succeed retiring Senator Peter Fitzgerald. Obama supports choice and other progressive issues. He led the effort to protect a woman's right to choose in the Illinois state legislature including opposing state bills that required parental notification, implemented an abortion ban, and prohibited public funding of abortion. It is expected that Obama will continue to support these issues in the United States Senate.


Retiring Senator John Breaux will leave his seat to Representative David Vitter who has served in the House of Representatives since 1999. During his tenure in the House, Vitter has been a vocal opponent of choice and has voted with his conservative allies to derail abortion rights. Vitter has consistently maintained a 0% choice rating for his votes on international family planning, abortion bans, and criminalizing the actions of those who help younger women across state lines obtain abortions. He has also introduced legislation to restrict women's ability to access mifepristone for very early abortion.

North Carolina

Republican Richard Burr beat former White House Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles by five percentage points to succeed Senator John Edwards who chose not to defend his seat while running for President. Burr's win represents a net loss for Democrats in the Senate. Burr has a reputation as a conservative (he came to the House of Representatives with former Rep. Newt Gingrich in 1994) and a strong supporter of an anti-choice agenda. He was a principal sponsor of the Unborn Victims of Violence Act in the House and generally opposes abortion except in the instances of rape, incest, or where the woman's life is at risk.


Senator Don Nickles' seat went to fellow Republican, Representative Tom Coburn, who defeated Representative Brad Carson by a narrow margin. Like Representative DeMint (see South Carolina below), Coburn has waged a war against mifepristone in the House of Representatives, including cosponsoring bills introduced by Reps. Vitter and DeMint and introducing his own legislation to restrict access to the drug. He has also been quoted as saying he would outlaw abortion even in the cases of rape and incest and that abortion providers should be executed.

South Carolina

In another seat to change party hands, Representative Jim DeMint beat South Carolina State Education Superintendent Inez Tenenbaum to succeed retiring Senator Ernest Hollings. Representative DeMint has been quoted saying he would outlaw abortion even in the cases of rape and incest, and has voted against every pro-choice bill or amendment to come before the House. DeMint also introduced legislation in the 108th Congress to pull mifepristone off the market and cosponsored his colleagues' bills to restrict mifepristone access.

South Dakota

In one of the most widely watched campaigns of this election, Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle was defeated by former Representative John Thune by a narrow margin. Although Daschle's stance on abortion can best be described as inconsistent, there is no question where Thune stands on the issue. He is virulently anti choice and has pledged to try to convince all of his colleagues that abortion is wrong.

Key House Races

Georgia 12th Congressional District

Incumbent Representative Max Burns (R) was defeated by Athens-Clarke County Commissioner John Barrow in one of only a handful of pick-ups for Democrats. Barrow is considered pro-choice and was supported by pro-choice groups throughout the election.

Illinois 8th Congressional District

Democrats also picked up a seat in the 8th Congressional District with Representative Phil Crane's defeat. Democrat Melissa Bean will take the seat in the 109th Congress with the endorsement of pro-choice groups.

Indiana 9th Congressional District

Democrats lost a seat in the 9th Congressional District of Indiana with the defeat of Representative Barron Hill. Although Representative Hill had only a mixed choice rating during his tenure in the House, Republican businessman Mike Sodrel was endorsed over Rep. Hill by the anti-choice community. Sodrel took the seat by a narrow margin and has vowed to vote conservatively on social issues.

Kentucky 4th Congressional District

Retiring Democratic Representative Ken Lucas will be leaving his seat to Republican businessman Geoff Davis. Davis edged out Democrat Nick Clooney for the seat and received endorsements from Kentucky Right to Life, North Kentucky Right to Life, and Family First.

New York 27th Congressional District

Republican Representative Jack Quinn retires from the 108th Congress leaving his seat to Democratic Assemblyman Brian Higgins. Higgins won a tight race against Republican Nancy Naples for a Democratic gain in the House. While in the New York State legislature, Higgins voted to restrict Medicaid funding of abortion and supported an abortion ban in New York State. However, Higgins voted with his pro-choice colleagues to strengthen laws on clinic violence.

Texas 1st Congressional District

Because of the Texas congressional redistricting, several prominent Democrats were forced to campaign against Republican incumbents or against Republican newcomers in newly drawn Republican leaning districts. Republican Texas Court of Appeals Chief Justice Louie Gohmert was a candidate who benefited from that redistricting plan. Gohmert defeated Democrat Max Sandlin becoming one of several new Texas Republicans in the House. Although Representative Sandlin maintained only a 30% choice rating, Judge Gohmert is expected to vote with his anti choice colleagues even more consistently.

Texas 2nd Congressional District

Judge Ted Poe unseated Representative Nick Lampson in one of five seats lost by Democrats in the state. Representative Lampson had only a mixed (27%) record on choice, but Judge Poe received the endorsement of the Texas Right to Life groups and is expected to vote with his anti-choice colleagues consistently.

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