Michigan, Vermont, and California affirm abortion rights, as Kentucky voters shoot down anti-abortion amendment

WASHINGTON — In a stunning display of broad support for at least some abortion rights, voters in a handful of key states voted to defend abortion rights in the first major test of public sentiment after the Dobbs decision.

Voters in Kentucky shot down a proposal that would have explicitly denied abortion as a right in its constitution, though the procedure still remains all but banned in the state. In a closely watched fight in Michigan, voters passed a measure that would protect abortion access in the state constitution. Voters in California and Vermont also voted to codify abortion as a constitutional right, while in Montana, voters weighed in on a measure requiring care for fetus born alive after an abortion attempt. That measure was largely expected to pass but remains in close contention with 80% of votes counted.

The Michigan measure was the first such vote since the Dobbs decision in a swing state with sizable populations of both Democrats and Republicans. Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer was locked in a tight race with GOP opponent Tudor Dixon, who is anti-abortion and has skirted the issue on the campaign trail, but Whitmer was elected to a second term.


“In the Midwest, a lot of states have already banned abortion. So Michigan is an incredibly critical access point for people across the region,” said Ianthe Metzger, director of state advocacy communications at Planned Parenthood Federation of America.


Planned Parenthood and partners EMILY’s List and NARAL Pro-Choice America poured unprecedented funds into supporting abortion rights ballot measures and pro-abortion political candidates, as well as battling anti-abortion proposals such as Kentucky’s ballot measure.

“We definitely did all we could,” said Planned Parenthood’s Metzger, who said the group put $50 million into their drive. “It was our biggest mobilization ever.”

The advocacy groups’ campaigning is on top of record Democratic spending on abortion-related advertising including $94 million in gubernatorial races alone, according to Ad Impact data shared with The Washington Post. 

Stephen Billy, vice president of state affairs for anti-abortion group Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, insisted that the Michigan vote is not a bellwether for Americans’ sentiments on abortion policy.

“I don’t think it tells us anything about the national abortion environment,” said Billy. “I think what it tells us is that the abortion industry can use tens of millions of dollars.”

SBA List has backed a number of conservative gubernatorial and congressional candidates that have run on banning or severely restricting abortion access, among them Michigan gubernatorial candidate Dixon, Nevada gubernatorial candidate Joe Lombardo — whose stance on abortion has shifted — and Tim Michels, who is running against Wisconsin incumbent Gov. Tony Evers. 

“Many Republicans running for governor and for Senate, we’ve seen over the past few months trying to scrub their records and to rewrite their records on this issue,” said Metzger. “That alone is an indication that they know that abortion rights are popular.” 

Candidates that have softened their rhetoric include Arizona Republican Blake Masters, who has backtracked from calling abortion “demonic” and supporting fetal personhood to saying he supports bans on late-term abortions, but not all procedures. In Nevada, the Republican running for U.S. Senate, Adam Laxalt, has been a vocal anti-abortion advocate but also recently insisted that he would vote with Democrats against a federal abortion ban

Vermont voters were largely expected to approve their measure after it passed both chambers of the state legislature with a two-thirds majority in both the 2019-2020 and 2021-2021 legislative sessions, giving it the necessary votes to secure a spot on the ballot.

“Enshrining this right in the Constitution is critical to ensuring equal protection and treatment under the law and upholding the right of all people to health, dignity, independence, and freedom,” stated the proposal written by state Sens. Tim Ashe, Becca Balint, Virginia Lyons and Richard Sears, all Democrats. The governor will sign a document adding the abortion measure and another outlawing slavery to the constitution on Dec. 13.

California’s measure was also projected to pass because of high polling in favor of reproductive rights, though it remains unclear from the ballot language if it would protect abortion past the point of a fetal viability, which typically happens around 24 weeks. 

Kentucky’s ballot measure, Amendment 2, would bar the use of public funds for abortion procedures and banned state courts from considering its constitutionality, but it’s trending to be rejected by voters in the largely red state.

This story has been updated with election results in California, Michigan, and Kentucky. 

Source: STAT