By Tara Corrigan, COO
October 18, 2022 – The Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade put abortion front and center in the 2022 midterm elections.
Already, 18 states have eliminated all or some abortion rights, and 13 states have completely eliminated those rights. This has happened because of old laws still on the books (like a Civil War-era ban in Arizona), “trigger laws” that went into effect after Roe was overturned, and even new laws passed by state legislatures.
But in some states, the right to an abortion is literally on the ballot. In August, voters in Kansas roundly rejected an amendment to the state’s constitution that would have banned abortion, with 59% voting to protect an individual’s right to choose. It was a surprising and heartwarming result from a state that leans strongly Republican.
On November 8, voters in five states — California, Kentucky, Michigan, Montana, and Vermont — will face a similar choice. But each state’s approach is very different, and in some cases, the choice for voters can be confusing.
We’ve put together a short primer on the upcoming state elections where abortion will be on the ballot.
In the Golden State, Proposition 1 asks voters whether to prohibit the state from interfering with an individual’s access to an abortion and birth control. A “yes” vote on this ballot measure would enshrine these rights for reproductive freedom in the state constitution. While the latest polls suggest Proposition 1 will pass with a strong majority, we’ve learned never to trust polls, haven’t we?
Abortion is completely banned in Kentucky. While this is being challenged in the state Supreme Court, Constitutional Amendment 2 is a simple, one-sentence measure that would enshrine current law and make abortion illegal from fertilization, completely eliminating the right to abortion. And there would be no exceptions allowed — not for rape, incest, or for the life of the mother. This is a direct attack on the rights of Kentuckians to control their own personal, private medical decisions. If you’re a Kentucky voter and you support an individual’s right to choose, vote “no” on Amendment 2.
Protect Kentucky Access is a collection of nonprofit and community organizations across the state that are coming together to defeat this dangerous ballot initiative. You can learn more about the fight against Amendment 2 here.
Voters will get to decide in a yes-or-no ballot measure whether to enshrine the right to an abortion in Michigan’s state constitution. Proposition 3 would establish a fundamental right to reproductive freedom in the state — covering the right to “make and effectuate decisions about all matters relating to pregnancy” — and invalidate a 1931 law that banned abortion in Michigan.
The measure was a matter of fierce legal wrangling for months, but ultimately the state Supreme Court put the measure on the ballot. The Reproductive Freedom for All (RFFA) campaign led the signature-gathering effort to put the measure on the ballot, and is fighting to turn out voters in November. You can learn more about the RFFA and its “Yes on Prop 3” campaign here.
Montana’s constitution guarantees the right to abortion until fetal viability, with the state’s supreme court recognizing a right to “procreative autonomy.” But post-Dobbs, Republicans have made it clear that they want to ban most abortions, and they have paths to get there. A super majority in the state legislature would enable Republicans to amend the state constitution to ban abortions, and they are only two seats away. Another path is through anti-choice ballot measures like the upcoming Legislative Referendum 131.
On the surface, this referendum would criminalize medical professionals if they fail to provide care to infants born alive after an attempted abortion, induced labor, or c-section. But this bad faith proposal reinforces the myth that infants are being killed after an abortion — which simply does not happen. This proposal is more about rallying conservative voters, scaring medical professionals, and fear-mongering using the myth that infants are born alive following an abortion.
The legislation itself is unnecessary: Any babies born in Montana are already protected under state and federal law. And more importantly, as the opposing Compassion for Montana Families puts it, providers would be banned from “offering compassionate palliative care to families dealing with tragic pregnancy complications, including situations where a newborn infant cannot survive.”
The League of Women Voters of Montana strongly opposes Legislative Referendum 131, and you can read their case here in the Bozeman Daily Chronicle.
Similar to the California ballot measure, Vermonters will vote on Article 22, which would add the right to “personal reproductive autonomy” to the state’s constitution. This is a straightforward “yes” or “no” vote, and it would cover any and all reproductive decisions, like birth control and abortion care. Currently, abortion is legal in Vermont at all stages of pregnancy.
The full language of Article 22 is short and simple: “That an individual’s right to personal reproductive autonomy is central to the liberty and dignity to determine one’s own life course and shall not be denied or infringed unless justified by a compelling State interest achieved by the least restrictive means.” The language is intended, as interpreted by the Vermont ACLU, to offer “the strongest constitutional protection possible against efforts to restrict reproductive rights.”
To learn more about the origins of Article 22, visit The Vermont for Reproductive Liberty Ballot Committee, the group backing the proposal.
Look at The Data
While there is nothing more important than protecting the health of women and their right to choose, there is undeniably a political aspect to all of this. The big political question is how the overturning of Roe will impact all of these elections.
In a recent poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation, half of all voters say they are motivated to head to the polls because of the Roe decision, and 76% of those people plan on voting for candidates who support reproductive freedom.
In addition, new voter registration data analyzed by the amazing TargetSmart team offers some early indications about how turnout might be affected. In Kansas, the data indicates a connection between voter registration and turnout. After the Supreme Court’s ruling on abortion on June 24, Democrats out-registered Republicans in Kansas by 8%, and women made up 70% of those new voters. This was potentially significant, if registration did indeed lead to actual voting. And then, for the August 2 vote, women made up 56% of ballots cast – a 12-point difference in gender voting — and the measure to ban abortion failed.
Similar swings in new voter registration are happening in other states:
- In Kentucky, new voter registration data from September showed that the gender gap for new voter registrations in Kentucky was +10% women.
- In Michigan, new women voters have out-registered men by 8.1% since the Dobbs decision, and Democrats have out-registered Republicans by 18%.
Whether these new registrations will lead to higher voter turnout — and good results for reproductive freedom — we won’t know until after November 8. But for now, they are promising trends for Democrats.