The fight over abortion will be on the ballot this November in at least 5 states
- Voters in several states will vote on abortion during this year's midterm elections.
- California and Vermont voters will decide to enshrine access to abortion.
- Kentucky and Kansas voters will decide against protecting access to abortion.
The battle over the access to abortion will continue during this year's midterm elections after the Supreme Court overturned the landmark Roe v. Wade decision last month. At least five states – California, Kansas, Kentucky, Montana and Vermont – will include ballot proposals on changing the state's constitution over abortion rights.
And several other states are either gearing up to include an abortion initiative in 2023 or beyond.
In California and Vermont, voters will decide to enshrine access to abortion, while in Kentucky and Kansas, voters will decide against protecting access to abortion in the states' charters.
In places like Arizona, a ballot measure to protect abortion access failed to meet the requirements for the November election. But activists in Michigan and Colorado are attempting to get an initiative included in the November election.
"I think this is just the beginning," said Lucy Leriche, vice president of public affairs at the Planned Parenthood Vermont Action Fund. "I think we're going to see a lot of states in the future who are going to be taking affirmative steps to securing the right to abortion in their states.
Here's where the fight to change abortion access is happening.
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Californians will vote on SCA 10, a constitutional amendment that codifies the right to abortion and contraceptives. The bill was passed by the state Assembly last month, in the wake of the Dobbs v. Jackson Whole Women's Health ruling, which overturned Roe v. Wade.
The same day SCA 10 was passed, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed an executive order protecting people seeking abortion in California from other states.
“California will not back down from the fight to protect abortion rights as more than half the states in this country, enabled by the Supreme Court, ban or severely restrict access,” said Newsom.
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On Aug. 2, voters in Kansas will decide on whether to continue protecting abortion access in the state's constitution. The vote on the Value Them Both amendment is the first abortion test in a post-Roe landscape.
In 2019, the Kansas Supreme Court ruled abortion access was protected by the state's constitution. However, Kansas Republicans support a ballot initiative that would end the constitutional right to an abortion.
Kansas is a frequent destination for women seeking abortions because nearby states like Missouri and Oklahoma are more stringent in abortion access. If the ballot initiative is successful and abortion is no longer protected through the state constitution, a Republican-controlled legislature could restrict abortion access in the future.
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After Roe was struck down, abortion access ended in Kentucky due to the enforcement of the 2019 trigger law under House Bill 148. The only exceptions for an abortion include saving the life of the pregnant person or preventing disabling injury.
Advocates filed a lawsuit aiming to restart abortion access three days after the Dobbs ruling. The lawsuit argues Kentucky's constitution allows the right to abortion.
"It's our only way to fight back against these extremist attacks on our liberties," Tamarra Wieder, Kentucky state director for Planned Parenthood Alliance Advocates, told the Louisville Courier Journal.
Voters will decide on a ballot initiative in November that adds an amendment to the state constitution declaring Kentucky does not have a constitutional right to abortion.
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The Medical Care Requirements for Born-Alive Infants Measure will be on the ballot this November in Montana. The measure states that infants born alive at any stage are "legal persons" and are entitled to the protections of the law.
It also requires infants born after a cesarean section or an attempted abortion receive medical care.
The measure also imposes a $50,000 fine and a 20-year maximum penalty for violating the law. More than half of Montana adults – 56% – believe that abortion should be legal in all or most cases while 38% believe it should be illegal, according to a Pew Research survey.
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Vermonters will decide on Proposition 5, which amends the state constitution to assure personal reproductive liberty. The state was the first in the U.S. to pass an amendment that guarantees the right to abortion in the state's constitution.
Vermont requires a proposition to pass in two consecutive legislatures before going to voters. Prop 5 met the requirement after it was first passed by the state Senate in 2019 and then again in February, when the state House passed the amendment.
At the time, 70% of voters supported abortion access, according to a Pew Research survey.
Lucy Leriche, who also leads the Vermont for Reproductive Liberty Ballot Committee, started planning on Prop 5 after attending a Planned Parenthood policy leaders conference in July 2018 because of how extensive Vermont's amendment rules are.
"I think with the Roe decision ... I think we had been battling a lot of complacency in this campaign up until that moment," said Leriche. "People are now really eyes wide open, are really paying attention, and hopefully that will activate them and motivate them to vote to in November."
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Other potential abortion ballot measures: Colorado, Ohio, Michigan
Anti-abortion activists in Colorado are advocating for initiative No. 56, which criminalizes abortion. The initiative outlaws the "murder of a child" but does include exemptions to save the life of a mother, "remove a child no longer living" and in the case of an ectopic pregnancy. Advocates must gather enough signatures to make the ballot, which they are still collecting.
Organizers in Michigan are attempting to enshrine access to abortion in the state's constitution through the Reproductive Freedom for All campaign. To qualify for the November ballot, 425,059 valid signatures are needed. Michigan has a near-total abortion ban that provides no exceptions for abortion in cases of rape or incest.
Planned Parenthood Advocates of Michigan said they had 753,759 voters from every county in the state signed onto the abortion rights amendment by the July 11 deadline.
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Democratic lawmakers in Ohio, including gubernatorial candidate Nan Whaley, want to put abortion access on the ballot as early as 2023. But first they'll need to collect signatures from 10% of electors in the last governor's race.
The process will be expensive and will take a lengthy amount of time. And it won't stop Republican lawmakers who are expected to ban abortion in Ohio without any exemptions in the case of rape of incest.
Abortion won't be on the ballot in Arizona
In Arizona, the Right to Reproductive Freedom Act failed to garner enough signatures to make the November ballot. The legislation would have left reproductive issues, from abortion to contraceptives, in the hands of patients and their doctors.
While advocates gathered 175,000 signatures in 61 days, they fell short of the 356,467 signatures needed by the July 7 deadline.
It is unclear whether abortions in Arizona can continue after Roe was overturned.
Contributing: Deborah Yetter, Louisville Courier Journal; Jessie Balmert, Cincinnati Enquirer; Mary Jo Pitzl, Arizona Republic; Clara Hendrickson, Detroit Free Press