Voters in three states enshrine constitutional abortion protections

Hundreds rally for women's reproductive rights as part of a nationwide protest of the overturning of Roe v. Wade Los Angeles on October 8, 2021. File Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI
Hundreds rally for women's reproductive rights as part of a nationwide protest of the overturning of Roe v. Wade Los Angeles on October 8, 2021. File Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI | License Photo

Nov. 8 (UPI) -- Voters in Michigan, California and Vermont on Tuesday, enshrined abortion protections in their states' constitutions in Tuesday's midterm elections.

Amendments passed in all three states, in the wake of June's Supreme Court ruling to overturn Roe vs. Wade.


Voters in Montana were poised to reject an initiative declaring that an embryo or fetus is a legal person with a right to medical care if it survives an abortion or delivery.

And in conservative Kentucky, voters rejected a ballot measure that would have denied any constitutional protections for abortion in a state where laws have already ostensibly banned the procedure.

The Supreme Court decision in June in Dobbs vs. Jackson Women's Health Organization overturned the 1973 Roe ruling and left states free to set their own abortion laws, producing a patchwork new of standards while those on the front lines were plunged into an uncertain limbo.


In August, voters in Kansas voted to keep abortion legal in the first popular vote on abortion rights in nearly 50 years and the first since the Dobbs decision. In that election, voters soundly rejected an amendment to eliminate protections for abortion in the state's Constitution.


With almost half of votes counted in California, voters overwhelmingly passed Proposition 1 to amend the state's constitution and "prohibit the state from interfering with or denying an individual's reproductive freedom, which is defined to include a right to an abortion and a right to contraceptives."

Almost two-thirds of those who cast a ballot in California (65.1%) did so in favor of the amendment, which was opposed by 34.9% of voters.

Current California law permits abortion until fetal viability, 24 to 26 weeks into a pregnancy.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Sunday called the measure "our opportunity to send a powerful message back to people all across America that we have their back."

Newsom was re-elected to a second term on Tuesday.

"Voters used their voice to say loud and clear they support access to abortion and contraception - safeguarding people's rights for generations to come," Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California CEO Jodi Hicks said in a statement.



Results in Michigan were much closer after voters went to the polls to decide Proposition 3, which established protections for a woman's right to have an abortion in the state's constitution.

Voters enshrined reproductive rights into the state's constitution, passing Proposition with 56.4% in favor and 43.6% opposing it, with 94% of votes counted.

The results mean women are free to make all decisions about pregnancy, including prenatal care, childbirth, postpartum care, contraception, sterilization, abortion, miscarriage management, and infertility.

"Damn it feels good to be a Michigander," Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, D-Mich., wrote on Twitter early Wednesday morning.

The measure was placed on the ballot after advocates submitted petitions bearing more than 735,000 valid signatures -- the most ever for a ballot measure in the state's history -- and Michigan Supreme Court justices ended a legal tug-of-war over petition technicalities.

Prior to that, the state's politically divided government had deadlocked on abortion, ensuring that a 1931 law banning abortions was dusted off. It was then thrown to the courts, where judges temporarily blocked prosecutors from enforcing it.


Vermont became the first state to enshrine abortion protection in its state constitution.


Voters in the Green Mountain State passed Proposal 5 by a margin of 76% to 24% with 72% of votes counted. The amendment had been widely expected to pass.

Proposal 5 adds language to the state constitution saying "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 Vermont House in February voted 107-41 in favor of putting the proposed amendment on the ballot, a move also supported by Republican Gov. Phil Scott, who was re-elected Tuesday night.

Campaigns on both sides of the issue each spent well over $1 million on advertising leading up to Tuesday's election.


Montana's "born alive" ballot initiative was close to being defeated Wednesday by early Wednesday afternoon, with 86% of votes counted. Slightly more than half of voters (52.4%) had voted against the measure to declare that an embryo or fetus is a legal person with a right to medical care if it survives an abortion or delivery, with 47.6% in favor.

The term is defined as a legal person who breathes, has a heartbeat, or has voluntary muscle movement after an abortion or delivery.


Abortion remains legal because of a 1999 ruling protecting it under the state's constitution.

Known as LR-131, the measure will impose severe penalties on health workers who don't provide the medical care, including criminal penalties of up to 20 years in prison and up to a $50,000 fine on any healthcare worker who doesn't try to save a "born-alive infant."

A "born alive infant" is one that is "born alive after an induced labor, cesarean section, attempted abortion, or another method."

Instances of fetuses surviving abortions are very rare, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, while physicians in the state and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists have opposed the measure, saying it would have prevented compassionate care for babies born with fetal abnormalities.


In Kentucky, voters rejected a ballot measure that would have denied any constitutional protections for abortion.

With 96% of votes counted, voters decided against Kentucky Constitutional Amendment 2 with 52.5% opposed, and 47.5% supporting it.

The defeated amendment would have added language to the Kentucky constitution to state that citizens do not have a right to abortion and that the state is not required to provide government funding for abortion.


Kentucky's Republican-dominated legislature has already imposed a near-total ban on abortions, and added the proposed constitutional amendment on the ballot.

Abortion became illegal in the state after the Dobbs decision, with Amendment 2 aiming to cement that status. Tuesday's results do not mean the state legislature will automatically reverse the current legislation, which almost entirely prohibits abortion.

Dubbed the No Right to Abortion in Constitution Amendment, the measure would have served to cut off legal actions against the state's two abortion bans, including a challenge currently pending before the state Supreme Court that is set for a Nov. 15 hearing.

In the pending case, the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Kentucky, and Planned Parenthood Federation of America have asked the Kentucky Supreme Court to overturn earlier rulings allowing two 2019 "trigger law" state abortion bans to go into effect.

Abortion-rights advocates march against overturning of Roe vs. Wade

Women attend a candlelight vigil in Washington on June 26, two days after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe vs. Wade, ending federal abortion protections. Photo by Jemal Countess/UPI | License Photo

Latest Headlines