Abortion rights supporters seek to build on successful 2024 ballot measures

Washington— Based on the result of ballot measures in six states which raises the question of access to abortion directly to voters this election cycle, reproductive rights advocates are setting the stage to pursue ballot initiatives that would enshrine abortion rights in more state constitutions in 2024.

Abortion-rights proponents envision 10 states where citizens can launch initiatives to change their state’s constitution and where access to abortion is currently restricted as possible battlegrounds for ballot measures, though ‘they recognize that the conditions must be ripe to mount what is often a long and costly campaign. before voters weigh in at the ballot box.

“The ongoing work is how do you think strategically about how ballot measures fit into your broader set of priorities, alongside litigation, direct care through abortion funds, legislative advocacy and trying to change the balance of power?” said Kelly Hall, executive director of the Fairness Project, a progressive group that helps organize and support ballot measures. She added that they are not “the magic bullet”.

In two states, the process of putting proposed amendments on the ballot in 2024 is already underway. In Oklahoma, State Question 828, if certified, would add a “right to reproductive freedom” to the state constitution. South Dakota’s Abortion Rights Amendment would allow abortions during the first trimester of pregnancy. In the second trimester, the state could regulate abortion only if it is “reasonably” related to the health of the mother.

Activists have also begun to examine whether the environment is right for initiatives to continue in Ohio, Missouri and Colorado, according to Sarah Standiford, director of national campaigns for the Planned Parenthood Action Fund.

“The most important factor is where this strategy can help protect or provide access to care? And so we’re certainly interested in that among other strategies for states where care is at risk or already restricted” , she told CBS News. “Everything is on the table as we fight back, and now more than ever, from state courts to state homes to ordinary citizens, we all have a role to play. Voters have seen the impact of their actions across the legislative and congressional races and the ballot – measure the vote, and that’s the level of empowerment that will be needed to make a difference in the years to come.”

The Supreme Court’s June decision roll back the constitutional right to abortion changed the national reproductive rights landscape, as decisions about abortion policy were devolved to the states.

Following the High Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade, 18 states have restricted abortion through gestational limits or enacted outright bans. Abortion rights advocates staged a all-in-one bridge effort protect reproductive rights through state courts, state legislatures, and the ballot box.

Darci McConnell places a door tag in support of Proposition 3 on a door in Plymouth, Michigan on October 30, 2022.
Darci McConnell places a door tag in support of Proposition 3 on a door in Plymouth, Michigan on October 30, 2022.

Nic Antaya for The Washington Post via Getty Images

Constitutional amendments, however, offer longer-lasting protections, as they are immune to partisan changes in state chambers or state courts who are now hearing legal challenges to abortion restrictions under state constitutions.

“Bullot measures, where available, provide citizens with a workaround beyond ideological extremism, stalemate, inability to govern and, in this case, an opportunity to say “Some rights are so fundamental that they must be outside the political arena. We want these rights to be enduring, to outlive the tenure of any politician. It is part of the constitution of our state, it does not not depend on you,” Hall said.

But pursuing a constitutional amendment, including through a citizens’ initiative, requires a tailored approach based on factors such as voter attitudes, the composition of state courts and access to care.

“The path to restoring, protecting, or even expanding abortion access and equitable access must go through states right now, and that’s because gerrymandered state legislatures have voted again and again to unravel our rights, which are hanging by a thread in many places. . We didn’t get here by accident,” Standiford said. “The reality is that there is no quick fix, but state action is what is needed.”

For the 2022 midterm elections, abortion was directly on the ballots in California, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Montana and Vermont. In California, Michigan and Vermont, voters approved state constitutional amendments protecting the right to abortion.

In traditionally conservative Kansas, Kentucky and Montana, voters rejected proposals to restrict access to abortion, delivering crucial victories to abortion-rights supporters who worked to overcome measures.

“These results are further proof of what we already know to be true, which is that overwhelming numbers of people want to protect reproductive freedom in this country,” ACLU senior policy strategist Carolyn Ehrlich told CBS. News. “We continue to see a lot of promise in directly appealing to constituents who are so clearly with us on the issues as a roadmap to protect abortion where the legislature may be a barrier to progress.”

In the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s ruling ending the constitutional right to abortion, many Democratic candidates have made the issue a centerpiece of their campaigns in hopes that the threat to abortion access will motivate the electors.

The focus on abortion seemed galvanize Democratic voters, as party avoided predicted ‘red wave’ – Republicans got a smaller majority in the House than expected — and maintained his control of the Senate. Voters in Michigan and Pennsylvania ranked access to abortion as their top concern.

The results proved that the backlash in response to the Supreme Court’s decision would carry through to the midterm elections and lift Democrats, though it remains to be seen whether abortion will continue to be a motivating factor. in 2024.

But Hall, of the Fairness Project, said she expects momentum to continue to build in favor of abortion rights as the effects of state restrictions are felt over the next few months. years.

“I don’t think what drives voters on the issue of abortion are the candidate campaign cycles or the news cycles of the media. It’s the actual erasure of the rights of freedom of choice and childbearing rights in 18 states where abortion has been banned, where people already face medical risks, economic devastation, and trying to find ways across state lines to get the care they need “, she said. “The problem will only get worse over time. The more people in states like Oklahoma, Missouri, Arkansas and the South face the reality of what this means month after month after month, the more that momentum is not going to falter.”

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