After Kansas, four more states set to vote on future of abortion

Six weeks after the Supreme Court ruled to overturn the constitutional right to abortion, the procedure is on the ballot in pockets of the country, and voters are now casting their vote. Voters in Kansas went first on Tuesday night — ultimately striking down an abortion ban — and now four more states will have their turn in the coming months.

Abortion-related ballot measures have been cropping up across the country in the wake of the Supreme Court ruling in June to overturn Roe v. Wade — a nearly 50-year precedent that affirmed abortion as a constitutional right.

At least a dozen states initially reacted by enacting trigger laws, which are abortion bans and restrictions designed to take effect immediately or with quick state action following the downfall of Roe.

Some states are having to turn to voters in order to determine the future of reproductive rights. It began with Kansas, one of five states to have an abortion-related measure included on its primary ballot. The Kansas No State Constitutional Right to Abortion and Legislative Power to Regulate Abortion Amendment asked voters to weigh in on a proposed state constitutional amendment that says the right to an abortion is not protected by the state constitution.

Kansas voters resoundingly rejected that measure, with nearly 60 percent of voters indicating “no.”

Kansas was viewed as a bellwether of how Americans feel in the aftermath of the high court’s decision, and despite being a historically conservative stronghold, Kansas voters rejected eliminating abortion access.

Now, four other states will pose similar measures to voters that address the future of abortion:

  1. California

The state on its Nov. 8 ballot will feature Proposition 1, which aims to amend California’s constitution to include the right to an abortion. The measure provides that the state cannot “deny or interfere with an individual’s reproductive freedom in their most intimate decisions,” including decisions to have an abortion or to choose or refuse contraceptives.

Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) has been doubling down on his efforts to make California an abortion sanctuary, including signing a law the shields California abortion providers and volunteers from lawsuits in other states. The state has also allotted more than $200 million in new spending to expand abortion in the state.

  1. Kentucky

Also on Nov. 8, voters in Kentucky will be able to vote on whether their state’s constitution should be amended to lay out that nothing in the state constitution creates a right to abortion or requires government funding of abortions.

Kentucky hopes to join four other states that currently have constitutional amendments declaring that their constitutions do not secure or protect a right to abortion or require the funding for the procedure.

The state has completely banned abortion, thanks to a trigger law that took effect quickly after the Supreme Court overturned Roe. The law makes limited exceptions like to prevent death or serious injury of the mother.

  1. Montana

Voters in Montana will get to weigh in on a state statute known as the Medical Care Requirements for Born-Alive Infants Measure on Nov. 8. It states that infants born alive at any stage of development should be considered legal persons; require medical care to be provided to infants born alive after an induced labor, C-section, attempted abortion or another method; and establish a $50,000 fine and/or 20 years in prison as the maximum penalty for violating the law.

Currently, abortion is legal in Montana up until 20 weeks of pregnancy and as long as the state constitution is not amended. Though the state has tried to enact several restrictive abortion laws, including one that would have stopped advanced practice registered nurses from being able to perform early abortion services. A judge blocked the law from taking effect.

  1. Vermont

Vermont is taking a similar approach to California by including Proposal 5 on its Nov. 8 ballot. It represents the Right to Personal Reproductive Autonomy Amendment which supports amending the Vermont constitution to add language protecting the right to personal reproductive autonomy and prohibiting the government from infringing — unless justified by a compelling state interest.

Abortion is currently legal in Vermont, and in 2019 the state enacted comprehensive abortion rights legislation. It protected abortion as a fundamental right throughout pregnancy and prevented any public entity to regulate, deny or interfere with an individual’s right to choose or refuse contraception or sterilization, to give birth or to obtain an abortion.

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