Michigan, California, Vermont Affirm Abortion Rights in State Ballot Proposals

Voters in California, Michigan and Vermont chose to enshrine abortion protections in their state constitutions on Tuesday, The Associated Press said.

A vote in Kentucky on whether to amend the State Constitution to say there was no right to abortion was too close to call as of early Wednesday.

The results in the three other states, which came just months after the U.S. Supreme Court removed the constitutional right to abortion, showed that when asked directly, a broad cross section of Americans want to protect abortion access.

Abortion also appeared to shape results in some candidate races. Across the country, Democratic politicians emphasized their support for legal abortion on the campaign trail, while many Republicans opposed to abortion tried to focus voters on other issues.

The amendments marked a victory for abortion rights supporters, who since losing in the Supreme Court this summer have sought to preserve or restore access to the procedure through a series of lawsuits, ballot initiatives and legislative fights.

Gov. Gavin Newsom of California, a Democrat who won re-election on Tuesday, said it was “a point of pride” that abortion was now protected in the State Constitution.

“It’s a point of principle and it’s a point of contrast,” he said, “at a time of such mixed results all across this country.”

Abortion-rights supporters have increasingly looked to ballot questions as a way to advance their interests, even in Republican-leaning places. In August, in the first major political test of abortion after Roe v. Wade fell, Kansas voters overwhelmingly rejected a constitutional amendment that would have ended abortion protections at the state level. That result in a conservative-leaning state was seen by national Democrats as a sign of the issue’s political potency and an opening for their candidates in November.

But as the Supreme Court decision began to fade from the headlines, Republicans who support abortion restrictions tried to shift the political conversation to more favorable ground like economic issues and crime.

In Michigan, the vote on whether to place abortion protections in the State Constitution played out at the same time as a high-stakes governor race. Gretchen Whitmer, the Democratic incumbent, made support for abortion rights central to her campaign. She won re-election, The Associated Press said.

The Michigan amendment is likely to have the most immediate impact. A state law that was dormant for decades while Roe was in effect bans abortion, but enforcement of that measure had been temporarily blocked by the courts.

Lisa Baldwin-Ryan, 58, voted in favor of the amendment despite her complex views on abortion.

“I am totally against people who use it as a form of birth control, but not everybody is strong enough to carry a child if they’re a victim of rape and incest — therefore, why should they be forced?” said Ms. Baldwin-Ryan, who supported the Libertarian candidate for governor.

Kristan Hawkins, president of Students for Life, which opposes abortion rights, said early Wednesday that Michigan voters would experience “buyer’s remorse” after passing the amendment.

In Kentucky, a reliably Republican state that is among many in the South with abortion bans, residents were still split as of early Wednesday. The vote on whether to amend the Constitution to say it contained no right to abortion came just a week before the State Supreme Court was scheduled to hear a challenge to Kentucky’s abortion ban.

JoAnn Lewis, 63, of Lexington, Ky., said she favored the amendment.

“Life, once it is seeded, it needs to grow just like a garden — you’ve got to protect it,” Ms. Lewis said at a polling place.

But Samia Temsah-Deniskin, 38, said she voted against the amendment “because women should choose what happens with their bodies.” Ms. Temsah-Deniskin, a photographer from Paris, Ky., said that she was pregnant and also has a daughter, and that “these rights are so important for women in particular.”

California and Vermont already had robust abortion protections in law. The votes on Tuesday provided the states with more durable bulwarks against any future anti-abortion legislation, but did little to change the immediate situation. With nearly all ballots counted, about 77 percent of Vermont voters favored the amendment.

In California, Sherman Jones, 54, said he considered the Supreme Court’s abortion ruling an affront to a woman’s right to privacy.

“I just think that’s something that individuals and their doctors need to decide and not politicians,” said Mr. Jones, who lives in Riverside County and voted to add abortion protections to the California Constitution.

In Montana, where abortion is legal, a ballot initiative requiring medical interventions to save those that the state defines as “born alive” infants had not been called as of early Wednesday.

Reporting was contributed by Sarah Baird, Corinne Boyer, Jill Cowan, Ryan Patrick Hooper and Shawn Hubler.



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