State legislatures are taking abortion rights to the ballot box, and some of the votes are coming up sooner than you think.
Following the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade on June 24—which reversed a 50-year-old precedent guaranteeing the right to an abortion—states are using the new legal gray area in which abortion currently sits to either codify a right to reproductive freedom or to outlaw abortion entirely.
A record number of at least five states will have abortion on the ballot this year. States that have certified ballot measures related to abortion include:
Kansans will vote on an amendment proposed by the state legislature in the August 2 primary. The amendment would ban abortion—a decision that The Nation‘s abortion access correspondent, Amy Littlefield, says isolates at least a third of constituents. “About 30 percent of Kansas voters are unaffiliated with any political party, which means they’re not used to voting in primaries, and may be unaware that they are, in fact, allowed to vote on ballot measures even during a primary,” Littlefield wrote.
In Kentucky, a ballot initiative introduced by the state legislature would implement a complete ban on abortion. While a judge has temporarily banned a trigger law in the state, and abortions remain legal at present, the amendment states that “nothing in the state constitution creates a right to abortion or requires government funding for abortion.”
Both Kentucky’s and Kansas’s ballot initiatives also arguably use intentionally confusing language—a “yes” vote for both measures would counterintuitively outlaw a right to abortion, rather than codify it.
Though abortion remains legal in Montana for now, the proposed “Medical Care Requirements for Born-Alive Infants Measure” is threatening that right. According to Jezebelthe measure, designed to guarantee personhood to infants who are born after failed abortion attempts, “would establish a $50,000 fine and possible 20-year prison sentence for those who provide certain abortions.”
Montana is also surrounded by states where trigger laws are already in effect—such as in South Dakota, where Montana Planned Parenthood has already begun to refuse medication abortions to patients—or where reproductive rights are at risk, like in North Dakota, Idaho, and Wyoming.
California and Vermont
In the solidly blue states of California and Vermont, voters will decide in November whether to add an explicit right to abortion to their respective state constitutions.
Other states may have citizen-introduced initiatives on the ballot as well, provided they obtain enough signatures to pass. These states include:
The traditionally purple state has a long history of citizens attempting to get initiatives on the ballot that would ban or restrict abortion, though no measures have ever obtained enough signatures to be realized.
Anti-choice advocates in the state are hoping to pass a measure that would define abortion as murder—with no exceptions—though they will likely come up short of the 124,632 signatures needed before an August 8 deadline.
Michigan offers hope to abortion-rights advocates, who saw a petition to put a measure on the ballot guaranteeing the right to an abortion gain more than double the signatures needed.
A campaign being led by Michigan Reproductive Freedom for All, ACLU of Michigan, Michigan Voices—a political advocacy organization—and Planned Parenthood Advocates of Michigan has collected 753,759 signatures to support a ballot initiative that would allow citizens to overrule a state legislature intending to criminalize abortion. That’s nearly double the state’s requirement of 425,059 signatures.
After receiving a record number of signatures in support of the initiative, the measure will likely move forward and will need at least 51% of voter support in November to pass.
While abortions in Michigan are legal for now, prominent state figures, such as University of Michigan football coach Jim Harbaugh, have become outspoken attendees at anti-abortion events in the state.