The midterm elections last week were disappointing for prolifers. In five states with ballot measures on abortion, voters chose the pro-abortion side each time. But, as William Murchison wrote in this space, “it’s essential that pro-life folk, after so much earnest effort over so many years, keep themselves from despondency.”
That said, there are a few key states where prolifers have a lot of work to do.
In California, voters approved Proposition 1, a measure to guarantee in the state constitution women’s “fundamental right to choose to have an abortion and their fundamental right to choose or refuse contraceptives.” The measure was introduced after Roe v. Wade was overturned, while Gov. Gavin Newsom expressed his desire that the state become a “sanctuary” for abortion.
Voters approved a similar initiative in Vermont, which already has some of the most permissive abortion laws in the United States. Its 2019 Freedom of Choice Act codified “the fundamental right of every individual who becomes pregnant . . . to have an abortion.” And on Tuesday, voters passed Article 22, the Reproductive Liberty Amendment, to protect “personal reproductive autonomy unless justified by a compelling State interest.” Pro-life advocates worry that because the amendment’s language is so broad, it could permit late-term abortions.
While it’s not a shock that historically liberal voters in California and Vermont chose to enshrine abortion in their constitutions, the failure of a pro-life ballot measure in the red state of Kentucky came as more of a surprise, echoing Kansas’ failure this summer to remove abortion as a fundamental right in the state constitution. On November 8, voters rejected an amendment to ensure that the state constitution cannot be construed “to secure or protect a right to abortion or require the funding of abortion” in order “to protect human life.”
Though this is a disappointment for prolifers, as the Associated Press notes, “the amendment’s defeat will have no practical impact on the right to an abortion if a sweeping ban on the procedure approved by lawmakers survives a legal challenge presently before the state Supreme Court.”
Michiganders also enshrined the right to abortion in their constitution. The New York Times reports, “The Michigan amendment is likely to have the most immediate impact. A state law that was dormant for decades while Roe was in effect bans abortion, but enforcement of that measure had been temporarily blocked by the courts.”
In Montana, voters rejected a bill specifically to ensure that infants born alive, including after attempted abortions, would receive medical care. The legislation would have imposed criminal penalties on health care providers who do not “take necessary actions to preserve the life of a born-alive infant.” The referendum failed 47 to 53 percent.
Pro-abortion advocates said the bill would prevent parents from spending time with their babies in their last moments. But, state Representative Matt Regier argued, “It states health care providers must take ‘medically appropriate and reasonable actions to preserve the life and health of a born-alive infant.’ Hospice care is appropriate and it is disingenuous of the opposition to misconstrue and belittle the hospice line of health care.”
While voters in California, Michigan, and Vermont chose to enshrine abortion in their state constitutions, and those in Kentucky and Montana refused to add new protections for preborn babies, the 2022 midterm elections suggest that voters were galvanized by the overturning of Roe v. Wade.
Prolifers now have their work cut out for them to prove that voting to protect preborn people is not “extreme,” and to make clear in their messaging that the goal is to protect all human life, including women and their babies.