Democrat Aaron Rouse won a special election for a state Senate seat in Virginia after his Republican opponent relented in a race that was widely seen as a proxy fight over abortion.

Rouse, a former NFL player who has served on the Virginia Beach City Council for the past few years, flipped a Republican seat that had been held by Jen Kiggans until she won a congressional seat in November. Rouse defeated Republican Kevin Adams, a retired Navy lieutenant commander.

«While last night’s results weren’t what we wanted, I’m proud of the campaign we ran and I’m so grateful for everyone who believed in me and this campaign along the way,» Adams said in an award. declaration one day after Tuesday’s special election.

Democrats will hold a 22-18 majority in the state Senate, with Rouse expected to provide a crucial vote against efforts by Gov. Glenn Youngkin and Republican lawmakers to pass a bill that would ban abortion after 3 p.m. weeks of pregnancy, instead of the current one. threshold of about 26 weeks.

“Reproductive rights and freedom in Virginia hang by a thin thread, especially after Roe was struck down, and the only thing standing in the way is a one-vote margin in the Virginia State Senate,” said Tarina Keene. , executive director of REPRO Rising Virginia, said Wednesday.

«It all comes down to one vote, and having Aaron Rouse added to the State Senate at this precarious time only helps shore up reproductive rights and freedom here in the Commonwealth. We know he’s an advocate for reproductive rights and the freedom and it will be a strong vote against any abortion ban that should be introduced in Virginia now,” Keene added.

Democratic state Sen. Joe Morrissey last week expressed his willingness to consider proposals to restrict access to abortion, saying WRIC-TV of Richmond in an interview that would keep an «open mind.»

Lt. Gov. Winsome Earle-Sears, a Republican, casts tie-breaking votes in the Senate, meaning Adams’ victory, along with Morrissey’s potential endorsement of the measure, could have put Youngkin in a stronger position to pass his bill. abortion proposal. Republicans control the House of Delegates.

During the campaign, Rouse said protecting access to abortion was a priority, and he promised on his website that he would «not compromise» on abortion rights.

Adams, meanwhile, said he would back Youngkin’s proposed ban «while providing reasonable exceptions to protect the life of the mother or in cases of rape or incest,» according to a statement on her campaign website. Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America endorsed Adams in the race.

In his State of the Commonwealth address on Wednesday, Youngkin called on the General Assembly to pass a 15-week ban.

“When it comes to unborn children, we can come together, we can choose life, and we can choose to support mothers, fathers, and families through difficult decisions,” Youngkin said. “In this session I have asked the General Assembly to meet to protect life at 15 weeks, the point at which a baby can feel pain. It is clear that Virginians want fewer abortions, not more.»

Rouse, who received a congratulatory phone call from President Joe Biden on Wednesday, responded to Youngkin on Twitter sayingin part, «I will always stand up for women’s reproductive rights, support public education, and build an economy for all.»

amanda terkel contributed.