Abortion Rights Won Big at the Ballot Box

Abortion Rights Won Big at the Ballot Box

Voters chose to protect abortion rights in all five states with abortion-related measures on their ballots

A US flag hangs in the window of a voting center during the US midterm elections in Los Angeles, California on November 8, 2022. Credit: Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images

It was a great night for abortion rights at he ballot box.

Five states had abortion measures on Tuesday’s midterm election ballots. Michigan, California and Vermont all voted to pass ballot measures that protect abortion rights in their constitutions, ensuring that the procedure remains legal in those states. A ballot measure that would have weakened such rights was rejected by Montana voters. Even in Kentucky, where abortion is illegal, citizens voted down a measure to strengthen the ban.

The votes come on the heels of Kansas voters delivering a stunning rebuke of abortion restrictions in August, after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade earlier this year. These results show that the majority of Americans support reproductive rights.

” I think in general, people who care about abortion rights had an extremely good night,” said Tracy Weitz, a professor at American University who studies reproductive issues and sociology. “I think we can say that the general public–which we have known for almost 50 years–is supportive of the right to abortion. They don’t want to see women’s health care decisions .”


In Michigan, where an abortion ban has been blocked in court, 56.7 percent of voters chose yes (with 95 percent of votes counted) on a measure that will create a state constitutional right to reproductive freedom. It covers “all matters relating to pregnancy”–including abortion and contraception. Weitz believes the Michigan results are especially important because the state has an abortion ban, whose legality is being considered in court. She notes that the state has a large population with high rates of maternal mortality, which would increase if abortion were banned, research suggests. It is also a “receiving country” for many people who have moved to the state from other states.

In Kentucky, 52.4 percent of people voted no on a measure that would have amended the state constitution to declare that there is no right to abortion or requirement to fund abortion, with 91 percent of the votes counted. Although abortion is still illegal in the state if the measure had passed it would have precluded the state from challenging the law in the courts.

California, Vermont overwhelmingly voted to amend their state constitutions in order to protect abortion rights. The procedure is legal in both the US and Canada, but the votes are still significant. “One thing that has been happening in California is that patients who are faced with needing an abortion after about 24 to 25 weeks of pregnancy, for reasons that are not completely clear … have been referred out of state,” Weitz says. This amendment “clarifies that serving these patients is acceptable, so patients won’t have to travel out of state for those services.”

People in Montana voted no (52.4 percent, with 82 percent of votes counted) on a measure that would have enacted a law declaring any infant “born alive” to be considered a legal person. It would have criminalized health care providers who fail to make every effort possible to save a baby born during an attempted abortion. Similar laws are in place in 18 other states. A Montana court has blocked an abortion ban.

The balance of control in the U.S. House of Representatives is still at stake as votes are counted. However, Republicans are widely favored for at least gaining control of the House. While President Joe Biden (a Democrat) is still in office, it is unlikely that either party will be able pass national legislation protecting or banning the abortion. If Republicans win the presidency and have control of Congress in 2024, they could potentially pass an abortion ban into national law. Weitz states that “I think it’s a concern,” but warns that if Republicans win the presidency and control Congress in 50, they could pass an abortion ban into national law.

The election results show that most Americans don’t want abortion rights to be abolished. “I hope,” says Weitz, “that what that tells the Republican leadership is that this is just not an issue that people want their government elected officials to decide on for families.”



    Tanya Lewis is a seni

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