WASHINGTON (AP) – Since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a national abortion law this summer, a dozen states have passed near-total bans and the issue has been thrust into the center of races across the country.
But the only direct test of how voters feel about abortion law after Roe v. Wade was in Kansas, where voters decisively rejected an effort to eliminate state constitutional protections for abortion. Now, with Tuesday’s midterm elections, five more states will get a gauge of voter sentiment on abortion, from dark red Kentucky to purple Michigan and blue California.
The most watched vote is in Michigan, a state that has long been one of the most competitive presidential battlegrounds in the country. Supporters of a push to protect abortion rights in the state constitution have collected more signatures than any other ballot initiative in state history to put it before voters.
If passed, the ballot measure would definitively end the 1931 abortion ban. A Michigan judge blocked the ban, but another court could revive it after Roe was overturned in June. If successful, the vote would overturn that ban and affirm the right to make pregnancy-related decisions about abortion and other reproductive services like birth control without interference.
Opponents argue that the measure could have far-reaching effects on other Michigan laws, such as one that requires parental notification of abortion for a person under the age of 18. But legal experts say changes to other laws would happen only if someone filed a lawsuit and won, a process that could take years and no certainty of success.
Meanwhile, voters in Kentucky are considering a ballot measure that would do the opposite — amend the state constitution to say there is no right to an abortion. State lawmakers have already passed a near-total ban; the ballot measure, if approved, would undermine the legal arguments of abortion rights supporters who challenge abortion restrictions.
Lawmakers added the proposed amendment to the ballot last year, a move some thought would drive more conservative voters to the polls. But since the Roe decision, abortion rights supporters have raised nearly $1.5 million to fight it. They hope to repeat the surprise outcome this summer in conservative Kansas, where voters overwhelmingly rejected a similar amendment that would have allowed the Republican-controlled legislature to tighten restrictions or ban the procedure altogether.
Defeat of Kentucky’s ballot measure would have no direct effect on laws already passed by the Republican-controlled Legislature, including a near-total ban with a narrow exception for women’s health that the state Supreme Court allowed to take effect. A court hearing to challenge that law is scheduled for November 15.
Voters in pure blue California and Vermont are also heading to the polls to vote on ballot measures that would enshrine abortion rights in their state constitutions.
In Vermont, the issue of reproductive rights came to the fore after the state legislature passed a law in 2019 guaranteeing abortion rights.
California has already passed several measures aimed at making abortion easier to access and has set aside millions of taxpayer dollars to help pay for some out-of-state abortion trips. This Election Day, voters will also decide whether to approve language that would expressly guarantee access to abortion and contraception in the state constitution. Supporters say it is necessary after the US Supreme Court found that the constitutional right to privacy does not make abortion legal after all. Gov. Gavin Newsom campaigned to support the measure, and former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited San Francisco to make the point.
Meanwhile in Montana, voters are deciding whether to impose criminal penalties on health care providers unless they do everything “medically appropriate and reasonable” to save a baby’s life after birth, including the rare possibility of birth after an attempted abortion.
Supporters say it would protect newborns, but opponents argue the act could rob families of precious time with babies born with terminal health problems if doctors are forced to treat them. Penalties for violating the proposed law include fines of up to $50,000 and up to 20 years in prison.
Follow AP coverage of the 2022 midterm elections at https://apnews.com/hub/2022-midterm-elections. And learn more about the issues and factors at play in the midterm elections at https://apnews.com/hub/explaining-the-elections.