Voters in at least four states will have the opportunity in November to decide what to do about abortion.
Voters in California, Kentucky, Montana, and Vermont will decide abortion-related ballot initiatives during midterm elections Nov. 8. Michigan voters also may weigh in.
“Constitutional ballot initiatives are notoriously confusing and complicated,” Mallory Carroll, vice president of communications for Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, told The Daily Signal. “That’s why it’s incumbent on the pro-life movement and pro-life Americans to fully educate themselves on exactly what each amendment before them would do.”
Here is what’s going on in four, maybe five, other states.
California is one of three states, along with Kentucky and Vermont, where voters will consider amending their state constitutions regarding abortion.
Californians will be asked Nov. 8 to vote yes or no on the Right to Reproductive Freedom Amendment.
The proposed amendment would add a right to abortion to the California Constitution. It reads:
The state shall not deny or interfere with an individual’s reproductive freedom in their most intimate decisions, which includes their fundamental right to choose to have an abortion and their fundamental right to choose or refuse contraceptives. This section is intended to further the constitutional right to privacy guaranteed by Section 1, and the constitutional right to not be denied equal protection guaranteed by Section 7. Nothing herein narrows or limits the right to privacy or equal protection.
The U.S. Supreme Court’s June 24 decision to overturn Roe v. Wade didn’t affect abortion law in California. State law allows an abortion up until the time a baby is considered viable, around 24 weeks of pregnancy, or to protect the life or health of the mother.
If voters approve California’s pro-abortion amendment to the state constitution, it will provide a path for passage of legislation permitting late-term abortions.
The proposed amendment is “extreme, even for a state like California,” Jonathan Keller, president of the California Family Council, said in a prepared statement. “Many people who identify as pro-choice still reject the idea of abortions ending the lives of viable children late in pregnancy.”
California Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, supports the amendment, saying in a written statement that “Californians will have the opportunity this November to enshrine the right to choose in our state constitution.”
A vote “yes” on Constitutional Amendment 2 on the ballot in Kentucky is a pro-life vote.
The ballot question reads:
Are you in favor of amending the Constitution of Kentucky by creating a new section of the Constitution to be numbered Section 26A to state as follows: To protect human life, nothing in this Constitution shall be construed to secure or protect a right to abortion or require the funding of abortion?
Kentucky’s proposed amendment is “really very straightforward,” David Walls, executive director of The Family Foundation in Lexington, told The Daily Signal.
The pro-life amendment “states that to protect human life, our Kentucky Constitution does not protect … abortion or funding for abortion,” Walls said.
Pro-abortion activists with Protect Kentucky Access write on their website that the proposed amendment “would pave the way for the state to ban abortion in all cases.” They add:
This is about changing our constitution. The legislators and organizations behind this amendment believe all abortion should be illegal, no matter what. We cannot allow special interests to edit our constitution in an attempt to impose their personal beliefs on all Kentuckians.
Kentucky law prohibits nearly all abortions, with exceptions to preserve the life and health of the mother.
For those supporting the amendment, the vote in November is “a once in a lifetime opportunity … to forever cement Kentucky as a pro-life state,” Walls said.
Montana is taking steps to protect babies born alive during botched abortions.
In November, Montanans will vote on a ballot initiative dubbed the Medical Care Requirements for Born-Alive Infants Measure.
The ballot measure asks voters whether they believe babies born alive after an abortion should be considered legal persons and given medical attention. It reads:
An act adopting the born-alive infant protection act; providing that infants born alive, including infants born alive after an abortion, are legal persons; requiring health care providers to take necessary actions to preserve the life of a born-alive infant; providing a penalty; providing that the proposed act be submitted to the qualified electors of Montana; and providing an effective date.
Montana state Rep. Lola Sheldon-Galloway, a Republican and sponsor of the legislation, said on the floor last year that the “practice of infants dying because they are not wanted or not planned is an abomination in God’s eyes.”
She would “continue to fight for the most invulnerable,” Sheldon-Galloway said.
Montana law permits an abortion up until a baby is considered viable, around 20 weeks of pregnancy.
In a prepared statement, state Rep. Kathy Kelker, a Democrat, said she opposes the ballot initiative because this “one-size-fits-all, legislated standard of care not only interferes with medical practice, but denies physicians the ability to provide care that is necessary, compassionate, and appropriate to an individual woman’s circumstances.”
“If this passes, Vermont will have the most extreme abortion situation in the entire country,” Matthew Strong, executive director of Vermonters for Good Government, told The Daily Signal, referring to his state’s ballot question on abortion.
On Election Day, Vermonters will vote yes or no on a proposed constitutional amendment called the Right to Personal Reproductive Autonomy Amendment.
If approved, the amendment would add these words to the Vermont Constitution:
That an 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.
“The Reproductive Liberty Amendment would protect every Vermonter’s right to make their own reproductive decisions without interference from politicians,” a spokesperson for the Vermont for Reproductive Liberty Ballot Committee told The Daily Signal in an email, using another name for the proposed amendment.
The pro-abortion organization’s spokesperson added that the amendment would prevent future restrictions on abortion in Vermont:
This ballot measure is supported by Vermonters of every political stripe who believe that important reproductive health care decisions should be guided by a patient’s health and well-being, not by a politician’s beliefs. The Reproductive Liberty Amendment protects reproductive rights that have existed in Vermont for half a century, ensuring that the rights we rely on today won’t change tomorrow. The amendment would protect reproductive liberty for Vermonters, by enshrining it in our state’s strongest legal document, the Vermont Constitution.
The language of the proposed amendment is intentionally vague, pro-life advocate Strong told The Daily Signal.
“Personal reproductive autonomy” is what the amendment proposes “enshrining as a constitutional right,” Strong said. “And because that is so vague, that will include anything our very liberal Vermont court system decides falls under ‘personal reproductive autonomy.’”
“Abortion is already legal through all nine months here in Vermont,” Strong said, adding that the proposed amendment would go beyond Roe v. Wade. The measure, he said, is “meant to permanently enshrine late-term abortion in our state constitution, and also remove any ability to do any commonsense limitations in the future.”
Michigan also may allow voters to decide whether to enshrine a “right to abortion” in the state constitution.
The Michigan Board of State Canvassers will meet Aug. 31 to decide whether to include a pro-abortion initiative on the ballot.
“SCOTUS sent this issue back to the states & MI is taking it straight to the ballot box,” Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel, a Democrat, tweeted June 29, referring to the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.
“No more ambiguity, no more fear,” Nessel wrote. “This November, Michigan voters will not stand for anything less than a codified assurance of their freedom.”
If the question gets on the ballot and voters approve it, the Michigan Constitution would guarantee an “individual’s right to reproductive freedom.” The proposed amendment reads:
Every individual has a fundamental right to reproductive freedom, which entails the right to make and effectuate decisions about all matters relating to pregnancy, including but not limited to prenatal care, childbirth, postpartum care, contraception, sterilization, abortion care, miscarriage management, and infertility care. An individual’s right to reproductive freedom shall not be denied, burdened, nor infringed upon unless justified by a compelling state interest achieved by the least restrictive means. Notwithstanding the above, the state may regulate the provision of abortion care after fetal viability, provided that in no circumstance shall the state prohibit an abortion that, in the professional judgment of an attending health care professional, is medically indicated to protect the life or physical or mental health of the pregnant individual.
The proposed pro-abottion amendment also would protect individuals from being penalized or prosecuted for aiding or assisting women in receiving an abortion.
A coalition of pro-life organizations challenged the other side’s petition to put the question on the ballot, raising concerns over typography errors in the text.
Multiple words run together in the text of the proposed amendment, Genevieve Marnon, legislative director for Right to Life of Michigan, told The Daily Signal, adding that there are 60 missing spaces in the text, including one string of characters over 100 letters long.
“The people who want to change our constitution didn’t even bother to proofread all these petitions,” Marnon said.
Abortions currently are permitted in Michigan up until a baby is considered viable. Michigan’s 1931 law prohibiting abortion remains on the books, but a court temporarily blocked the law from going back into effect after the Supreme Court overturned Roe in its Dobbs decision.
The pro-abortion measure “is a confusing and extreme constitutional amendment, and women deserve better than the devastating consequences it would force on them,” Christen Pollo, spokeswoman for Citizens to Support Michigan Women and Children, said in an email to The Daily Signal.
The proposed amendment contains a “lot hidden in the text … that voters, no matter their beliefs on abortion, don’t support: repealing parental consent, repealing health & safety standards that protect women, and even allowing non-doctors to perform abortions,” Pollo said.
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