These five measures could change abortion access across America

It’s the first election season in a post-Roe America, and abortion consistently polls as one of the top issues on voters’ minds as the midterms approach.

This year marks the most abortion referendums on ballots nationwide in a single election. Two ballot measures would protect abortion access against the uncertainty of the recent Supreme Court ruling that declared that abortion is no longer a constitutional right.

Adding protections in this moment makes sense. Legal abortions fell some 6 percent in the two months after the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision erased the constitutional right to abortion. In 13 states, most abortions are banned with narrow exceptions. And the threat of a national ban on abortion is real, especially if Democrats do not, at minimum, hold their current ground in the midterms.

Abortion bans are severely unpopular—a scant 8 percent of Americans say that abortion should be banned in all cases, according to the most recent data from the Public Religion Research Institute. In Kansas, a ballot measure dubbed “Value Them Both” would have amended the state constitution to assert that the document does not protect the right to abortion. In August, state voters overwhelmingly voted “no” against the measure, and abortion rights proponents are hoping that the trend holds across the nation.

California – Proposition 1

If passed, Proposition 1 would enshrine the right to abortion and the right to use contraceptives (or not) in the state’s constitution, clarifying that the state cannot interfere in a person’s reproductive freedom. The measure is expected to pass, given the strong Democratic majority in the state.

Abortion opponents have launched a disinformation campaign that claims the referendum allows abortions “up til the moment of birth.” While it’s true that the ballot measure, also known as Constitutional Right to Reproductive Freedom, does not contain any gestational limit to abortion, there is no evidence that such a scenario exists. Third-trimester abortions constitute a mere 1.2 percent of all abortions in the US, and studies have shown that these decisions are not made on a whim, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Abortions later in pregnancy overwhelmingly happen because of severe fetal defects, threat to a pregnant person’s life, or because a series of logistical barriers have pushed a person deeper into pregnancy.

You can view the ballot information here.

Michigan – Proposition 3, “Reproductive Freedom For All”

Voters across the state will vote in November on a proposal that would make the right to abortion the law in the Midwest state.

The proposal, named “Reproductive Freedom For All” will appear on the ballot as Proposition 3. A “yes” vote would create a broad right to “reproductive freedom” in the Michigan Constitution. This would strike a 1931 abortion ban and potentially other abortion regulations. A “no” vote would leave abortion access up to elected officials or judges.

You can view the ballot information here.

Kentucky—Constitutional Amendment 2, No Right to Abortion

Like Kansas, voters in Kentucky will decide on an amendment that would amend the state constitution to say residents do not have a right to abortion. The coalition opposing the measure has raised $2.7 million this year, according to an Oct. 12 financial report, Reuters reported, outspending pro-life efforts by more than five times.

“While it has been devastating seeing the effect of not having access to abortion in Kentucky, it has really brought us a lot of hope to see everyone pulling together and uniting to defeat the constitutional amendment in November,” Heather Ayer, campaign coordinator at the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky told Facingsouth.org.

You can view the ballot information here.

Montana – LR-131, “Born Alive Infant Protection Act”

Voters in Montana will decide on the “Born Alive Infant Protection Act” that will declare embryos and fetuses as legal persons with a right to medical care if born alive after a failed abortion or born prematurely. Doctors who are found to intentionally not provide life-saving care to a fetus born alive could be punished by up to 20 years in prison or a $50,000 fine, or both, the referendum states.

Eighteen states have “born alive” laws, although there is no scientific evidence that such legislation is necessary. All of them were enacted by state legislatures. Montana’s would be the first to be passed by legislative referendum, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

The “born alive” talking point is based largely on a mythical idea that abortion is horrific and grotesque. It is extraordinarily rare for a fetus to survive an abortion procedure. (A member of the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology remarked that it is so exceedingly uncommon that such cases occur “essentially zero percent of the time.”) There are a few reasons “born alive” laws are nonsensical. One, viability is somewhere around 24 weeks’ gestation (pregnancies vary, there is not a bright line after which a fetus can survive outside the womb). Two, as of 2015, only 1.3 percent of abortions in the United States were performed during or after the 21st week of pregnancy. Three, if a healthy baby were to be killed, manslaughter charges would clearly apply.

The measure will appear as LR-131 on the ballot. You can view the ballot information here.

Vermont – Proposal 5

Like California, Vermont is proposing to enshrine the right to abortion in its state constitution. If Proposal 5 passes, the state has to stay out of its citizens’ reproductive lives, unless it has a really “good” reason to interfere, and even then, it would be an uphill battle for the state to define what could qualify as such. There is no clear definition of what would constitute an interv

Proponents of the bill are asking that the following line be added to the constitution: “[A]n 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.” Tl;dr: the state has to stay out of its citizens’ reproductive lives, unless it has a really good reason to interfere, and even then, it would be an uphill legal battle for Vermont.

The right to abortion is protected by state law—this would only shore it up a bit further. Like California, the measure is expected to pass.

You can view the ballot information here.

Becca Andrews

Becca Andrews | bandrews@reckonmedia.com

Becca Andrews is a reporter at Reckon News and the author of "No Choice: The Destruction of Roe v. Wade and the Fight to Protect a Fundamental American Right."

Anna Beahm

Anna Beahm | abeahm@reckonmedia.com

I report on the intersection of religion and sexuality in America. Follow me on Twitter @_AnnaBeahm

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