By Sharon Bernstein
(Reuters) – Voters in five states will consider abortion-related ballot measures in the Nov. 8 election, initiatives that have taken on new urgency after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion nationwide.
In August, voters in conservative Kansas defeated a ballot measure aimed at eliminating abortion rights from the state’s constitution. Here is a look at the upcoming votes:
A proposal backed by the Democratic-led state legislature and reproductive rights advocates would enshrine the right to an abortion in the state’s constitution.
The measure would cap a years-long effort by advocates in the left-leaning state to protect abortion rights, including recent funding to help people who live in states where the procedure has been limited or banned seek care in California.
Vermont residents also will vote on a constitutional amendment to protect abortion rights. As required by state law, the ballot measure has already been approved twice by the Democratic-controlled legislature.
It is the culmination of actions to shore up abortion rights, including a new state reproductive rights law, that began in 2019 after the appointments of Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court cemented its conservative majority.
In the battleground state of Michigan, a proposed constitutional amendment would declare abortion as a right.
Reproductive rights groups say such protections would ensure future abortion access in the state, which has a Republican-controlled legislature and a Democratic governor up for re-election in November.
Conservative Republicans in the state had sought to allow a 1931 abortion ban to be enforced once Roe v. Wade was overturned. But a judge ruled on Sept. 7 that the ban, which made no exceptions for rape or incest, violated the state’s constitution and could not be enforced.
A recent poll commissioned by the Detroit News and WDIV-TV showed 60% of likely voters in Michigan said they would support a constitutional amendment guaranteeing abortion rights.
A measure in conservative Kentucky would establish that the state constitution does not protect or recognize a right to an abortion.
As of Sept. 13, state campaign finance records show opponents of the measure had raised about $1.5 million, while supporters brought in $350,000.
In Montana, voters will be asked about a so-called “born alive” law, which would require medical care to be provided to infants born alive after a failed abortion.
Based on the belief among some anti-abortion activists that babies have been left to die after abortion, labor or “extraction,” such as a cesarean section, the measure affirms that all infants born alive are considered legal persons in the state.
Doctors who fail to care for such living infants would be fined up to $50,000 and face imprisonment of up to 20 years. There is limited data on these types of abortions but what data exists suggests it is rare and likely to involve fetuses with severe conditions that may make them unlikely to survive.
Other conservative states have enacted similar legislation in recent years.
(Reporting by Sharon Bernstein; Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Josie Kao)