Michigan, California and Vermont affirm abortion rights in state ballot proposals

Voters in California, Michigan and Vermont on Tuesday opted to include abortion protections in their state constitutions, the Associated Press said.

As of early Wednesday, Kentucky was too close to a vote on whether to amend the state constitution to deny the right to abortion.

Just months after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the constitutional right to abortion, results from three other states suggest a broad spectrum of Americans wants to protect access to abortion when questioned directly.

Abortion also appears to have affected outcomes for some candidate races. Across the country, Democratic politicians have emphasized their support for legal abortion on the campaign trail, while many anti-abortion Republicans have tried to focus voters’ attention on other issues.

The amendments mark a victory for abortion rights supporters, who have sought to maintain or restore access to the abortion procedure through a series of lawsuits, voting initiatives and legislative battles since their defeat on the Supreme Court this summer.

California’s Gavin Newsom, the governor’s re-election Democrat who won re-election on Tuesday, said it was “a matter of pride” that abortion is now protected by the state’s constitution.

“It’s a point of principle and a point of contrast,” he said, “at a time when there’s this kind of mixed results across the country.”

Abortion rights supporters increasingly see voting issues as a way to advance their interests, even in Republican-leaning places. In August, following the fall of Roe v. Wade, Kansas voters overwhelmingly rejected a constitutional amendment that would end abortion protections at the state level. National Democrats saw the result as a sign of the issue’s political validity and gave their candidates a chance in November.

But as the Supreme Court decision began to disappear from the headlines, Republicans who supported abortion restrictions sought to shift the political conversation to more favorable topics like economic issues and crime.

In Michigan, a vote on whether to include abortion protections in the state constitution coincides with a high-stakes gubernatorial race. Democratic incumbent Gretchen Whitmer has made support for abortion rights central to his campaign. The Associated Press said she won re-election.

The Michigan amendment may have the most immediate impact. A state law that has been on hold for decades effectively bans abortion, but a court has temporarily blocked enforcement of the measure.

Lisa Baldwin-Ryan, 58, voted for the amendment despite her mixed views on abortion.

“I’m totally against people who use it as a form of birth control, but if they’re victims of rape and incest, not everyone is strong enough to have children – so why force them?” Ms. Baldwin-Ryan, supports the Liberal candidate for governor.

Kristen Hawkins, president of the student body for life, which opposes abortion rights, said earlier Wednesday that voters in Michigan would experience “buyer’s remorse” after passing the amendment.

Residents of Kentucky, a solidly Republican state and one of many states in the South that have banned abortion, remained divided as of early Wednesday. The vote on whether to amend the constitution to say it does not include the right to abortion comes just a week before the state Supreme Court is scheduled to hear a challenge to Kentucky’s abortion ban.

JoAnn Lewis, 63, of Lexington, Kentucky, said she favored the amendment.

“Life, once planted, it needs to grow like a garden – you have to protect it,” Ms. Lewis said at a polling station.

But Samia Temsah-Deniskin, 38, said she voted against the amendment “because women should choose what happens to their bodies.” Mrs. Temsah-Deniskin, a photographer from Paris, Kentucky, who is pregnant and has a daughter, said, “These rights are especially important for women.”

California and Vermont already have strong abortion protections in place. Tuesday’s vote provides states with a more durable bulwark against any future anti-abortion legislation, but does little to change the current situation. Nearly all ballots were counted, and about 77 percent of Vermont voters supported the amendment.

In California, Sherman Jones, 54, said he viewed the Supreme Court’s abortion ruling as an affront to women’s right to privacy.

“I just think it’s something individuals and their doctors need to decide, not politicians,” Mr. Jones, who lives in Riverside County, voted to add abortion protections to the California Constitution.

In Montana, where abortion is legal, a ballot initiative calling for medical intervention to save what the state defines as a “live birth” had not been convened as of early Wednesday.

reported by Sarah BairdColleen Boyer, Jill Cowan, Ryan Patrick Hooper and Sean Hubble.

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