(WASHINGTON) — Abortion access, legalized marijuana and antiquated laws on slavery are some of the topics that will be addressed in ballot measures in midterm elections.
When the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June, it ruled there was no right to an abortion granted under the Constitution, leaving it up to states to determine how to regulate the medical procedure.
In an August primary, Kansas became the first state to let voters decide on abortion since the court’s ruling, and residents overwhelmingly rejected a bid to remove abortion protections from its state constitution.
Five more states — California, Kentucky, Michigan, Montana and Vermont — have abortion-related questions on the ballot this November, leaving it up to voters whether to protect or restrict abortion rights in their respective states.
Initiatives to protect or expand abortion rights
In California, voters will decide whether to amend the state constitution to prohibit the state from denying or interfering with a person’s “reproductive freedom,” granting Californians a fundamental right to choose to get an abortion or use contraceptives.
The measure aims to amend the constitution to protect reproductive rights already granted and protected by state laws.
In The Golden State, abortion is currently legal until fetal viability, according to the Guttmacher Institute, which generally is until 24 weeks’ to 26 weeks’ gestation.
In Vermont, voters will decide whether to amend the state’s constitution to include a right to “personal reproductive autonomy,” which will include abortion.
According to the Guttmacher Institute, a research group focusing on sexual and reproductive health, abortion is currently legal during any stage of pregnancy in Vermont, but there is no explicit protection granted under the constitution.
In 2019, Gov. Phil Scott, a Republican, signed a bill stating abortion is a “fundamental right” and protecting rights to family planning, contraception and sterilization.
Michigan voters will vote on a proposed constitutional amendment that would add protections for reproductive rights this November.
The proposed amendment defines reproductive freedom as “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.”
After Michigan’s Board of Canvassers failed to reach a decision on whether to add a question to the ballot, the state’s Supreme Court ruled in favor of adding the question.
A state abortion ban on the books since 1931 is also being challenged in court, but is not currently in effect. Last month, a state judge ruled that the ban is unconstitutional, prohibiting prosecutors from bringing charges against physicians who provide abortion services.
Initiatives to eliminate or restrict abortion rights
Voters in Kentucky will decide on an amendment to the state’s constitution that would specify that a right to abortion does not exist nor is the government required to allocate funding for abortion.
Abortion is currently banned in the state after a trigger law went into effect following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision.
Under the law, anybody who performs or attempts to perform an abortion will be charged with a Class D felony, punishable by one to five years in prison. The only exception is if the mother’s health is at risk.
This ban and another ban, which prohibits abortions after six weeks, are currently being challenged in court. The Kentucky Supreme Court will hear arguments on Nov. 15 on whether to issue a temporary injunction on the ban until the legal challenges are resolved.
Montana voters will decide whether to approve of or reject a bill passed by the state legislature which would change the state constitution to define all fetuses “born alive” as legal persons, including those born after an abortion.
The proposal would define “born alive” as the complete expulsion or extraction of a human infant at any stage of development, who after extraction breathes, has a beating heart or has definite movement of voluntary muscles, regardless of whether the umbilical cord has been cut or what the birth method is, according to the bill.
If approved by voters, the bill would grant any infant born alive the right to appropriate and reasonable medical care and treatment. A provider who fails to provide the medical attention could face a fine of up to $50,000 and up to 20 years in prison.
In August, the Montana Supreme Court upheld a district court ruling to block three abortion bans that were passed in 2021 while the litigation plays out.
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