The four states that will have abortion on the ballot in November
Voters in California, Montana, Kentucky, and Vermont will have abortion issues to decide on this November, key votes to watch after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June, eliminating the federal right to the procedure.
All four states have proposed ballot initiatives that will either codify or restrict abortion rights for voters to weigh in on.
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In August, Kansas voters became the first to vote on a ballot measure since the ruling, overwhelmingly rejecting a ballot amendment removing the right to an abortion from their state constitution.
California voters will vote on Proposition 1, which would amend the state’s constitution to enshrine the right to reproductive freedom. Reproductive freedom is defined as including the right to have an abortion and the right to choose or refuse contraceptives.
California’s constitution guarantees a right to privacy, but abortion is not explicitly included. California’s Democratic-controlled legislature pushed the measure through in June so that “there is no doubt as to the right to abortion in this state,” legislative leaders and Gov. Gavin Newsom said in a statement.
If a “no” vote is chosen on the ballot measure, the California Constitution will not be changed to include reproductive freedom expressly, but those rights would still be protected under state law, according to California’s Legislative Analyst’s Office.
Vermont will also consider its own state constitutional amendment to codify a person’s right to make reproductive decisions.
The Vermont Right to Personal Reproductive Autonomy Amendment would amend the state’s constitution to include language enshrining the right to personal reproductive liberty, not to be infringed or denied unless there is a compelling state interest “achieved by the least restrictive means.”
Though the language of the amendment does not include the word “abortion,” proponents say it would protect abortion access.
Vermont has had a law on the books since 2019 that guarantees abortion rights, which is when the legislature also began the process of amending the constitution.
If a “no” vote wins, the state constitution will not be amended.
Montana voters will decide on Legislative Referendum 131, which aims to adopt the Born-Alive Infants Protection Act after the state’s Republican-led legislature approved it last year.
The act would establish under state law that infants who are “born alive” at any stage of development are legal persons entitled to medical treatment and would impose criminal penalties on health providers who do not take “necessary actions” to preserve their lives.
“Born alive” refers to an infant who “has a beating heart, or has definite movement of voluntary muscles” after “expulsion or extraction” from the mother as a result of natural or induced labor, cesarean section, induced abortion, or another method, according to the act.
It would require healthcare providers to take all “medically appropriate and reasonable” actions to preserve that infant’s life, and those who violate the law could face up to 20 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $50,000.
If a “yes” vote on the referendum wins, the act will be adopted, and the law will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2023, while a “no” vote would reject the measure.
Kentucky voters will vote on a GOP-led Amendment 2, which seeks to amend the state’s constitution to specify that it does not “secure or protect a right to abortion or require the funding of abortion.”
If the “yes” vote wins, the language will be amended to clarify that the state constitution does not include the right to an abortion, but if a “no” vote wins, then no action will be taken. The amendment would go into effect immediately after the votes are certified.
Kentucky’s heartbeat law, which bans most abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected, typically at or around six weeks of pregnancy, has faced legal challenges that have temporarily blocked its enforcement.
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If Vermont and/or California pass their ballot initiatives, they will become the first state(s) to have a constitutional provision enshrining the right to an abortion.
A group of abortion rights advocates in Michigan has also spearheaded efforts to get a similar initiative ensuring abortion access on the ballot, though the Board of State Canvassers failed to advance the measure last month. The group has petitioned the Michigan Supreme Court to intervene to place the amendment on the ballot.