California and Several Other States Boost Abortion Rights Protections on Election Day

Several states sought to amend their constitutions to protect rights eroded by the recent Supreme Court ruling.

FILE - A small group, including Stephanie Batchelor, left, sits on the steps of the Georgia state Capitol protesting
AP Photo/Ben Gray

Voters in Michigan and Vermont joined Californians in boosting protections to abortion access, with all three states voting to amend their state constitutions to codify abortion rights.

California voters passed Proposition 1 with a 65% yes vote, confirming the state’s early status as a champion for reproductive autonomy. Legislators put the measure on the ballot after the June Supreme Court ruling gave states control over abortion access. 

In Vermont, 76.7% of voters agreed to amend their state constitution to add language giving all individuals the right to reproductive autonomy.

Abortion advocates in Michigan got Prop 3 on the ballot by collecting more signatures than any other ballot initiative in the state’s history. The measure passed with more than 56.7% approval, affirming an individual's right to make reproductive decisions without state interference.

In a surprise victory for reproductive rights, in Kentucky and Montana -- states with near bans on abortion -- voters said No to restrictive ballot measures designed to hinder access and criminalize health care providers.

Montana voters rejected Referendum 131, which sought to mandate care for aborted or miscarried infants born alive at any stage of development. The ballot measure would have compelled healthcare workers to comply or face criminal charges.

This means that Montana will now become a safe haven for women seeking abortions in the Midwest.


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Kentucky voters rejected a measure to amend its state constitution with language that would tighten already restrictive abortion laws. The victory came as abortion rights activists were set to challenge those restrictions in court.

California’s legislature came out early with a challenge to the Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, issuing a “West Coast offensive” with Oregon and Washington leaders, the day the decision was handed down.

Democrats around the country kept the focus on abortion, campaigning on reproductive freedom as a key issue and spending heavily on advertising.

Even in states where abortion rights were not specifically on the ballot, the fight for reproductive freedom was evident.

In Pennsylvania, backlash from the overturn of Roe v. Wade may have helped fuel John Fetterman’s Senate win over Mehmet Oz.

There were many issues Fetterman championed -- raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, expanding protections for the LGBTQ community, legalizing marijuana -- but abortion rights became a defining issue.

Fetterman said reproductive rights are “non-negotiable,” while Oz said he supports abortion in the case of rape or incest or if the pregnancy risks the health of the mother. A recording had emerged of Oz calling abortion “murder” at any stage of a pregnancy in August.

Fetterman had put access to abortion front and center in his campaign. Among voters who agreed with that sentiment (36% of the electorate), 78% voted for him.

In Minnesota, Democrats gained control of the governorship and both houses of the Legislature. The Speaker of the House of Representatives Melissa Hortman attributed those wins to her state’s focus on reproductive rights. 

Hortman told the LA Times that candidates tapped into a “simmering rage” among voters that never stopped.

Political strategist Anna Greenberg said abortion was "central to Democratic performance." She worked with Senate candidates Michael Bennett (D), Colorado and Mark Kelly (D) Arizona, both of whom led in their respective polls against Republican opponents.

Greenberg told the LA Times that interest in the election among Democrats and independent voters continued to grow after the Supreme Court decision.

"Independent women shifted very Democratic in all my races," Greenberg said.

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