- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 4, 2022

It’s not just Kansas.

California, Kentucky, Montana and Vermont also will put abortion rights on the ballot in November in the wake of the Supreme Court ruling that overturned the Roe v. Wade decision and left abortion laws to the states.

Kansas voters on Tuesday resoundingly rejected a proposed measure that said the right to abortion is not protected by the state constitution. About 60% of voters voted “no” on the ballot question, enthusing pro-choice Democrats looking for momentum in the midterm elections.

Now the focus shifts to other states.

In California, voters will weigh in on a measure that says the state cannot “deny or interfere with an individual’s reproductive freedom in their most intimate decisions.”

Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, has positioned California as a sanctuary state for abortion. He signed an executive order in June that said state agencies will not share medical records with investigators in states that ban the procedure and try to track down women who seek the procedure in California.

SEE ALSO: Abortion activists, Biden see Kansas vote as major victory ahead of midterms

“California will not back down from the fight to protect abortion rights as more than half the states in this country, enabled by the Supreme Court, ban or severely restrict access,” Mr. Newsom said at the time. “We are ensuring Californians will have the opportunity this November to enshrine the right to choose in our state constitution.”

Similarly, Vermont voters will be asked whether they support adding language to the state constitution that would protect a right to “personal reproductive autonomy” and “prohibits government infringement unless justified by a compelling state interest.”

Kentucky voters on Nov. 8 will vote on a question that would move the Bluegrass State in the opposite direction from places like California and Vermont.

If approved, the ballot question would make clear that nothing in the Kentucky constitution establishes a right to abortion or requires government funding for the procedure.

Several other states have constitutional provisions that make it clear that abortion is not protected.

Kentucky banned abortion under a “trigger law” that took effect after the Supreme Court’s decision in late June. An appeals court upheld Kentucky’s ban this week amid an ongoing legal battle.

Montana voters, meanwhile, will weigh changes to state law that ensure medical care for babies born alive after an attempted abortion or certain births.

Specifically, a “yes” vote would affirm that:

• Infants born alive at any stage of development are legal persons.

• Medicare care must be provided to infants born alive after an induced labor, cesarean section, attempted abortion or another method.

• There is a $50,000 fine and/or 20 years in prison as the maximum penalty for violating the law.

Twenty-six states have statewide ballot initiative or referendum processes that allow voters to have a direct say in creating, amending or repealing laws, according to Ballotpedia.

“I think in the states where it’s possible to get issues on the ballot, we will see more of them,” said Kyle Kondik, managing editor of Sabato’s Crystal Ball at the University of Virginia Center for Politics. “Ohio is a natural candidate — it’s common to have big statewide issues there and I can certainly imagine the pro-abortion rights groups working to put something on the ballot there soon.” 

He said it can be politically beneficial to be on the “no” side of a ballot issue, as pro-choice supporters in Kansas were this week.

“Some voters will be confused by an issue and will vote no as the safer choice to preserve the status quo,” he said. “Generally speaking, ballot issues need to be polling north of 50% for the poll to actually suggest it will pass. In other words, the ‘yes’ side can be overrated in polls and the ‘no’ side underrated.”

The Biden White House is leaning into the issue, rallying with state lawmakers on abortion access, issuing executive orders on reproductive health and cheering the result in Kansas.

On Thursday, Vice President Kamala Harris met with state and local leaders in Boston.

She praised Massachusetts as a model for pro-choice policies and hailed voters in Kansas for rejecting new restrictions on women who want to opt for an abortion.

“They said, ‘Don’t take her rights from her and allow the government to replace her priorities with its priorities,’” Ms. Harris said. “Our administration stands with the leaders who are here and with the women of America in a belief that they should make these decisions for themselves.”

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, a Republican known for centrist positions, also praised Kansans.

“There were a heck of a lot of independents and Republicans that voted for choice in that election,” he said. “Some issues cross party lines.”

Ms. Harris previously traveled to Florida, Indiana, New Jersey, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Virginia to discuss the issue.

President Biden on Wednesday signed an executive order that instructs Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra to evaluate “all appropriate actions to ensure health care providers comply with federal non-discrimination laws so that women receive medically necessary care without delay.”

Specifically, Mr. Biden wants HHS to help women who decide to travel out of state for abortions because the procedure is banned in their home states.

• Tom Howell Jr. can be reached at thowell@washingtontimes.com.

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