Abortion ballot measures seen as critical -- but tricky -- strategy

Christine Vestal, Stateline.org on

Published in Political News

The landslide victory for abortion rights in a Kansas primary election this month was the first direct expression of voter sentiment on the issue since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the nearly 50-year-old constitutional right to abortion in June.

Even abortion rights supporters were surprised by the large majority of voters in conservative Kansas who rejected a GOP-backed state constitutional amendment that would have said there is no right to an abortion in the state. Adopting the amendment would have paved the way for the Republican-dominated state legislature to further restrict or ban the procedure.

Two more initiatives opposing abortion rights and three supporting it are slated for ballots in November — the most on record in a single year. And state lawmakers and advocates already are preparing ballot initiatives in a handful of states for the 2023 and 2024 elections.

But legal and political experts on both sides of the issue remain circumspect about what the Kansas vote may mean for future elections in the rest of the country.

“What worked for abortion rights supporters in Kansas may not work in other states where abortion is restricted,” said Elizabeth Nash, principal policy associate at the Guttmacher Institute, which supports abortion rights.

“It’s not clear exactly what motivated voters to come to the polls in such huge numbers,” she said. “Kansas was a very important vote, but it didn’t turn Kansas into California overnight.”


For abortion rights supporters, the biggest challenge likely will be a ballot question in Kentucky, where former President Donald Trump won by an even wider margin in 2020 than he did in Kansas.

The Kentucky “No Right to Abortion in Constitution Amendment” will ask voters whether the state constitution should be amended to say that it does not include a right to abortion nor require government funding for abortion.

Another anti-abortion measure, in Montana, asks voters to approve a law that would require infants born alive at any stage of development to receive medical care after an abortion or other pregnancy outcome and would establish a penalty of 20 years in prison and/or a $50,000 fine for violators.

On the other side of the issue, voters in California, Michigan and Vermont would decide whether their state constitutions should establish an affirmative right to abortion. California’s and Vermont’s measures already have been certified for the ballot, and Michigan’s is expected to be by the end of this month.


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