Three States Approve Amendments Protecting Abortion In Major Upset

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In this week’s midterm elections, several states have now approved amendments to their state Constitutions protecting the right to abortion. In each of these locales, including California, Vermont, and Michigan, access to abortion was already available, but the amendments make undoing that access significantly more difficult.

Early results showed the most overwhelmingly pro-abortion rights outcome in Vermont, where over three-fourths of voters supported the proposed amendment. In Wednesday numbers from California and Michigan, blocs of voters backing the states’ respective proposals were in the majority in each locale, and in all three states, the Associated Press already called the contests for the “yes” side. In California, 65 percent supported the amendment upholding abortion rights with what The New York Times estimated as under half the overall vote tabulated, and in Michigan, where the proposal survived a legal challenge before appearing on ballots over whether it was appropriately presented to voters while gathering signatures, over 56 percent of voters supported the initiative.

In Michigan, there have also been stand-offs in court over pre-Roe restrictions on abortion, but a Michigan judge struck down a 1930s law in the state to that effect in September. “A law denying safe, routine medical care not only denies women of their ability to control their bodies and their lives — it denies them of their dignity,” Judge Elizabeth Gleicher said. “Michigan’s Constitution forbids this violation of due process.” Another judge also issued an apparently preliminary injunction blocking at least certain avenues of enforcement of the same ban. After an earlier and also temporary block from Gleicher, Republicans in the state legislature appealed. In this week’s elections, Democrats secured control of both chambers of the state legislature in Michigan for the first time since the early 1980s. The newly established Democratic control will significantly curtail any efforts by Republicans to impose new restrictions on abortion, suppressive electoral rules, or something similar and controversial.

Dems scored these wins after redistricting following the 2020 census was handled by a newly formed independent commission, cutting into gerrymandering. The amendment putting abortion rights into the Michigan state Constitution received some of its highest county-level support in Washtenaw County, which includes Ann Arbor, a college town featuring the University of Michigan. Over 75 percent of those weighing in from the county were in favor of the proposal. The proposal attracted similar levels of support in Ogemaw County, which is a more sparsely populated jurisdiction further north in the state. In Vermont, “no” on the state’s successfully proposed amendment favoring abortion rights wasn’t in the lead in a single county.

Meanwhile, Kentucky voters also rejected a proposed amendment to that state’s Constitution that would have specified that the guiding document doesn’t include the right to an abortion. A total abortion ban with rare exceptions is already in effect there, but approving the amendment would have curtailed options for legally challenging the restrictions. Challenges are pending before the state Supreme Court.