people have have traveled across state lines to obtain abortions where it remains legal. The percentage of people obtain legal abortions
The division on abortion did not start when the Supreme Court abandoned the constitutional protection of the right to have an abortion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization in June 2022 – but the decision sparked state-level referendums on whether or not abortion should be allowed.
eighteen statesfrom Alaska and Arizona to Wyoming and Washington, allow voters to directly change a state’s constitution through ballot measures.
Ballot measures – or referenda — could show the power of the people’s direct vote in determining abortion law at the state level.
In the November 2022 midterm elections, voters added protection of the right to abortion to constitutions in California, Vermont and Michigan. Kentucky voters were asked an inverted version of this question—whether the state constitution should ban abortions. They said no.
The Kentucky vote looks like a August 2022 referendum on the abortion that took place in Kansas. fifty-nine percent residents of Kansas — a state with a history of anti-abortion policies and activism — voted to uphold the state’s constitutional protection of abortion rights.
Like a reproductive health and justice specialistI think the results of the referendum in places often seen as red or purple stateslike Michigan, Kentucky, and Kansas, show how varied and complex beliefs and opinions about abortion are in the United States.
Ballot measures, perhaps short-term, may provide a way to protect or restore the ability to have an abortion in states where politics tends to skew conservatives. Simply put, not all conservatives want to ban abortion.
Abortion legal landscape
The legal terrain of abortion has changed in the United States since Dobbs.
Abortion law is increasingly a state-by-state patchwork in which people can get an abortion along the east and west coasts, but residents of certain parts of the South and Midwest cannot do so in their state. of origin at any time during pregnancy.
Following Dobbs, 17 states have banned abortion before viability, the point at which a fetus can live outside the uterus, usually around 23 or 24 weeks pregnant. Thirteen of these states, such as Alabama and Wisconsin, prohibit abortion from the first moments of pregnancy.
Prior to Dobbs, 15 states had laws or constitutional provisions protecting state-based abortion rights. These safeguards ensure that abortion will remain legal in the state regardless of the Supreme Court’s decision.
Other New State Abortion Laws
In recent months, six states have passed so-called shield laws, which aim to protect health care providers from liability for providing legal abortions to out-of-state residents.
Shield laws are not just prophylactic measures. As I wrote with co-authors David Cohen and Greer Donleythe emerging legal landscape will be punctuated by conflicting state policies on abortion, especially as states seek to impose their policy choices as widely as possible, even across state borders. A bill from Missouri introduced in the spring of 2022 proposed to do just that by giving private citizens the right to sue anyone who helps a Missouri resident get an abortion — regardless of where the abortion took place.
Any state seeking to enforce its laws outside of state borders may face constitutional problems – the U.S. Constitution guarantees the right to travel and prohibits states from burdening interstate commerce, for example, which could prove to be a legal obstacle to the enforcement of laws with extraterritorial effect. But these arguments are largely untested or underdeveloped.
Legislation that states pass after Dobbs of course reflects differences of opinion on abortion itself. But in some places where abortion has been banned or restricted, anti-abortion lawmakers may not reflect the beliefs of their constituents. Recent electoral measures reveal this.
Significance of Abortion Referendums
A September 2022 survey showed that 65% of Americans polled think Roe’s disappearance is a “major loss of rights.” This result aligns with polls showing that in various conservative states a majority of voters want some or most abortions to remain legal.
In Kentucky, the vote to keep open the possibility of state protection of abortion rights could send the same message as these polls. Election initiatives could also override the will of anti-abortion politicians who have had a grip on the issue.
Take the example of Michigan. The referendum passed in the midterm elections expands constitutional abortion protections in the state, overturning the now-current law that bans abortion in the state — a law that was books since 1931.
Faith in ballot metrics is a risky and expensive proposition. Expensive because, as the Kansas vote shows, groups supporting opposing sides of the issue have spent millions to convince voters of their positions. Risky because voting restrictions and gerrymandering can dilute people’s voting power in some places.
But the votes in Kansas, Kentucky and Michigan could show the ability of abortion rights advocates to mobilize their funding and messaging to take abortion issues away from state lawmakers and put them in the ballot box.
This article is republished from The conversation, an independent non-profit news site dedicated to sharing ideas from academic experts. It was written by: Rachel Recaps, Temple University. The conversation has a variety of fascinating free newsletters.
Rachel Rebouche does not work for, consult, own stock or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond her academic appointment.