Voters will have their say on abortion in 5 states with high-stakes ballot measures

Millions of voters will soon determine the fate of abortion access in a handful of states, including Michigan, which may become the first to make an abortion ban permanently unenforceable since the fall of Roe v. Wade.

At the polls on Tuesday, voters in California, Michigan and Vermont will decide whether to enshrine reproductive rights in their state constitutions, while voters in Kentucky could do the opposite and conclude explicitly that it does not. shouldn’t be such protections.

In Montana, if a ballot initiative passes, state health care providers could face criminal charges if they fail to take “reasonable steps” to save a born-alive child, including after a attempted abortion.

The measure and its proposed penalties, including up to 20 years behind bars and a maximum fine of $50,000, have been met with fierce opposition from medical providers.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists said such a ‘cruel’ law would impose aggressive treatments in extremely complex situations, which could ‘prolong suffering and deprive families of the choice to offer comfort or spiritual care. “.

The referendums come more than four months after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, the landmark decision that guaranteed a constitutional right to abortion.

Overturning the precedent of half a century, the court left the power to limit or grant the right to abortion to the states. It triggered an abortion ballot measure in Kansas this summer, and five more this fall. That’s the most abortion-related ballot proposals in a single year, according to the bipartisan National Conference of State Legislatures.

He left the stakes unusually high in Michigan, a key battleground this year. If Proposition 3 — a ballot measure to create a state constitutional right to reproductive freedom — passes, it would invalidate a 1931 state law that prohibits abortion without exception for rape or incest.

Citizens to Support Michigan Women and Children, a leading opponent of the proposal, criticized it as “confusing and extreme.” Christen Pollo, spokesperson for the group, said it would have “dangerous consequences for the women and children of our state.”

In August, a judge temporarily blocked enforcement of the anti-abortion law, which had lain dormant for the decades Roe v. Wade. And one state court declared the law unconstitutional a month later. But supporters of the ballot initiative said there was a chance the decision could be appealed.

Codifying abortion rights in the state constitution would prevent the decision from being overturned, said Nicole Wells Stallworth, executive director of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Michigan. It would also prevent future administrations from being able to implement harsh restrictions, she added.

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, the Democratic incumbent, has been a champion of abortion rights, but she is take a challenge of Republican candidate Tudor Dixon, who called the abortion ballot proposal “radicalin a debate with her.

“The tables turn with every cycle,” Wells Stallworth said. “No matter who is in office, who sits on the bench, who is the attorney general of the state, Michigan residents have the right, enshrined in the Michigan constitution, to reproductive freedom.”

In Kentucky, where a ballot proposal could tighten restrictions, the reverse could happen.

Voters will determine whether to amend the state constitution to explicitly say it does not protect the right to abortion or abortion funding.

Abortion was effectively banned in Kentucky over the summer after an appeals court allowed the state’s “trigger laws” to take effect following the Roe v. Wade. Abortion rights advocates are defying these laws.

If the amendment passes, it will be much harder for abortion rights advocates to pursue these challenges, said Stephen Voss, a University of Kentucky political science professor who specializes in elections and voting.

Rachel Sweet, campaign director for Protect Kentucky Access, which opposes the referendum, said it would be nearly impossible to restore access to abortion in Kentucky through legal channels.

“Right now, there are ongoing disputes over existing state laws that have banned abortion in almost all cases,” she said. “If the amendment passes, the prosecution of these cases essentially stops.”

If the amendment fails, it leaves open the possibility that pro-abortion litigation could prevail in court. More importantly, the Kentucky Supreme Court could also draw inspiration from voters when it hears oral arguments on the issue scheduled for a week after the election, Voss said.

Sweet is hopeful after successfully running a similar campaign in conservative Kansas in August.

In the first election test of the issue since the overturning of Roe v. Wade, Kansas voters overwhelmingly rejected a proposed constitutional amendment that would have removed protections for the right to abortion.

Fifty-nine percent of voters rejected the measure amid a turnout the secretary of state called “incredibly high.”

“What Kansas showed us, and what I hope we can prove to Kentucky, is that this issue is actually very unifying,” Sweet said.

Support for abortion rights has reached an all-time high, and nearly two-thirds of Americans oppose the Supreme Court’s overturning Roe v. Wade, a national body NBC News Poll found in May.

“Abortion affects a lot more people than we realize,” Sweet said.

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