Five States Have Abortion Referendums on the Ballot

After voters in Kansas rejected an amendment to the state’s Constitution in August, five other states will vote on proposals about abortion.

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Five States Have Abortion Referendums on the Ballot |

A spectator holds up a sign at a rally for abortion rights in June in Los Angeles.

The Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade in June at first appeared like it might change Democratic fortunes in this year’s midterm elections, giving the party an energizing issue even as inflation remained high and President Biden’s approval ratings remained low.

That momentum was clear in August, when voters in deep-red Kansas rejected a proposed amendment to the state Constitution that would have allowed legislators to enact abortion restrictions.

But Republicans have gained an edge as voters have expressed concern about the inflation and the economy. Democrats are bracing for a red wave in the House, and control of the Senate hinges on close contests.

Even so, abortion remained a hot-button topic heading into Election Day. Races for governor and legislature in several states could have implications for future abortion legislation. And in five states, abortion is directly on the ballot.

Here are the states where abortion referendums will be decided on Election Day.

Michigan’s Reproductive Freedom For All proposal would protect the right to make decisions about “all matters relating to pregnancy” in the state, where a 1931 law that would make abortion illegal was blocked from taking effect by a court ruling earlier this fall.

The proposal would allow the state to regulate abortion after fetal viability, which is usually around 24 weeks, except in cases where abortions are medically necessary to protect the “physical or mental health” of the woman. The 1931 law does not include exceptions for rape, incest or the health of the mother, and it threaten doctors who perform the procedure with up to 15 years in prison.

Voters will decide whether to enshrine abortion rights in the state Constitution. Separately, California’s Democratic governor, Gavin Newsom, has urged Hollywood companies to stop filming in states like Oklahoma and Georgia, where stricter abortion laws are in place, and recently signed a package of 12 bills meant to strengthen abortion rights in the state, where the procedure is permitted up to fetal viability.

Kentucky voters will be asked to approve a revision to the state Constitution to make clear it does not protect the right to abortion. It is a safeguard against potential legal challenges to the state’s existing law restricting abortion, which went into effect over the summer.

The ballot initiative won’t affect typical abortion access in the state, where the procedure is permitted until viability or if necessary to prevent a serious health risk to the mother.

Rather, the measure would require mandatory medical interventions to save those the state defines as “born-alive” infants — which can include fetuses diagnosed as nonviable — and establish criminal penalties for health care providers who refuse to intervene.

The Reproductive Liberty Amendment, if enacted, would enshrine the right to an abortion in the state Constitution. Abortion is already legal in the state, without a time limit, and that will continue even if the amendment fails.

Lauren McCarthy contributed reporting.


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