(Bloomberg) — Voters in Michigan, Kentucky, California and Vermont backed ballot measures in support of reproductive rights on Tuesday, six months after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down federal abortion rights and sent the issue back to states.
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It was the first test of the polarizing issue on the ballot since August, when voters in deep red Kansas rejected an attempt to change the state constitution to declare no right to abortion.
In heavily Republican Kentucky, voters rejected a measure that would have amended the constitution, saying there is no right to an abortion. But the procedure will remain largely unavailable there under current regulations, which allow abortion only if the mother’s health is at serious risk. The state Supreme Court is hearing a lawsuit challenging the near-total ban.
Voters in California and Vermont, two states with large Democratic majorities, approved measures enshrining abortion rights in their state constitutions.
In Michigan, a key state, the future of reproductive rights has been uncertain since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. Even before the high court’s decision, Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer filed a lawsuit seeking an interpretation of existing laws that would enshrine abortion rights. Whitmer staked much of her re-election campaign on the issue.
Michigan’s vote on Tuesday also enshrined abortion rights in the state constitution, making the state a potential destination for people from Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky and West Virginia if extreme restrictions in those places remain in place. books.
Abortion was a bigger issue in Michigan than in any of the 10 other states where Edison Research conducted exit polling. Nationally, three in 10 voters said abortion was their top issue, according to Edison exit polls reported by Reuters. But in Michigan, it was about half the voters.
Read more: The state-by-state battle over abortion in the US
In post-Roe America, where states have the power to severely restrict abortions, access depends on where you live. Following the Supreme Court’s ruling, a vast abortion desert has opened up in the US South, where many states, including Texas, Alabama and Oklahoma, have adopted near-total bans, some with no exceptions for rape or incest.
A few other states have less restrictive laws that would be illegal under Roe, and in a few more anti-abortion legislation is still working its way through the courts.
Other states, particularly on the coasts, have moved to strengthen abortion protections so lawmakers can’t enact further restrictions. Currently, approximately 20 million women live in states where abortion is largely illegal.
The new regulations led to 10,000 fewer abortions nationwide, according to a recent study. There has also been an increase in people ordering abortion pills from abroad.
The Fairness Project, part of the coalition that pushed to pass the pro-abortion-rights measure in Vermont, says voters can expect similar efforts in other states.
“We look forward to passing more ballot measures to protect abortion rights where we can,” Fairness Project Executive Director Kelly Hall said in a statement Tuesday night.
–With help from Kelsey Butler.
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