Editor’s note: This story originally published on September 5, 2022. It has been updated with additional developments.
Voters in a small number of states will decide in this week’s midterm elections how those states should handle the abortion issue. Abortion rights have taken on an increased significance and become a top focus in the midterm elections after the US Supreme Court’s ruling this summer that there was no longer a federal constitutional right to the procedure.
In its August primary, Kansas was the first state in the nation to let voters weigh in on abortion since the high court overturned Roe v. Wade, and Kansans overwhelmingly chose to reject a state constitutional amendment that would have given state lawmakers the green light to help enact more restrictive abortion laws.
Four other states – California, Kentucky, Montana and Vermont – will consider ballot measures in November that seek to either restrict abortion or enshrine abortion rights. A proposed initiative in a fifth state, Michigan, is currently caught up in a dispute over making the fall ballot.
California - Proposition 1
Proposition 1 asks voters whether to enshrine abortion rights in the state constitution.
A “yes” vote would amend the California Constitution to say that the “state shall not deny or interfere with an individual’s reproductive freedom in their most intimate decisions, which includes their fundamental right to choose to have an abortion and their fundamental right to choose or refuse contraceptives.”
A “no” vote would keep the state constitution as is – but abortion rights would remain protected under state law, according to the California Legislative Analyst’s Office.
Currently, the state constitution guarantees a right to privacy, which the California Supreme Court has ruled includes the right to have an abortion.
In May, following the leak of the US Supreme Court’s draft opinion, California Democratic leaders Gov. Gavin Newsom, state Senate President Pro Tempore Toni Atkins and state Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon said in a statement that they would propose an amendment “so that there is no doubt as to the right to abortion in this state.”
The Democratic-controlled state legislature in June approved putting the amendment on the November ballot.
“Proposition 1 ensures that no matter what the future legislature looks like, what the future governor looks like, that people in California have a constitutional protection that explicitly ensures the state won’t interfere with their right to reproductive freedom,” Jodi Hicks, the head of Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California and co-chair of the Yes on Prop 1 campaign, told CNN.
The California Family Council said the proposed amendment is an “extreme and costly proposal that does nothing to advance women’s health.” And the California Catholic Conference, which opposes Proposition 1, called it a “misleading ballot measure that allows unlimited late-term abortions – for any reason, at any time, even moments before birth, paid for by tax dollars.”
The Yes on Prop 1 campaign said the proposal would not change “existing state constitutional protections and law, which provide for the right to choose an abortion prior to viability or to protect the pregnant person’s life or health.”
If adopted, the measure would go into effect the fifth day after the vote is certified.
Kentucky – Amendment 2
Amendment 2 in Kentucky, which was put on the ballot by the GOP-led legislature, seeks to amend the Kentucky Constitution to state that it does not “secure or protect a right” to abortion or the funding of abortion.
The ballot question will read: “Are you in favor of amending the Constitution of Kentucky by creating a new Section of the Constitution to be numbered Section 26A to state as follows: To protect human life, nothing in this Constitution shall be construed to secure or protect a right to abortion or require the funding of abortion?”
Kentucky’s “trigger law,” which bans most abortions at all stages of pregnancy, and a law banning abortion after roughly six weeks of pregnancy have been allowed to be enforced temporarily, while a lawsuit challenging the laws continues.
Kentucky Right to Life executive director Addia Wuchner, who chairs the Yes for Life Alliance, which supports the amendment, said voting “yes” would “ensure there’s no false interpretation of the constitution.”