In Michigan, where Governor Gretchen Whitmer (D) won re-election in part by portraying herself as an abortion rights champion, voters approved a ballot initiative that will enshrine abortion rights in the constitution of the state – preventing the 1931 abortion ban from taking effect. .
And in North Carolina, Republicans failed to secure an anti-veto legislative supermajority, ensuring that Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper will continue to have the power to block abortion restrictions in a state that is become an essential access point for people seeking abortions in the South East. .
Tracking outcomes where access to abortion is at stake
The series of abortion rights success stories confirmed a political trend that emerged in August, two months after the fall of deer, when voters in conservative Kansas rejected an anti-abortion amendment similar to the one that was defeated in Kentucky. The results showed how even though GOP lawmakers seized the moment to enact more restrictions, much of the public sees the issue differently — with about 6 in 10 midterm voters saying abortion should be legal in all or most cases, according to exit polls.
The network’s exit polls also found that nearly 3 in 10 voters nationally said abortion was the most important issue in their vote, and about 4 in 10 voters nationally said they were “angry” that deer was overthrown.
A “unifying message” was emerging from the 2022 midterms, said Tamarra Wieder, state director of Kentucky Planned Parenthood Alliance Advocates: “Abortion transcends party lines.”
Activists on both sides of the issue were closely watching a handful of major state-level contests where the future of abortion access continues to hang in the balance. Several gubernatorial contests were deemed key for the right to abortion, including in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, where Democrats Josh Shapiro and Tony Evers were projected winners, as well as Arizona, where the contest is still too close to call.
In Michigan, nearly half of voters said abortion was the most important issue in deciding their vote, according to exit polls, ranking well above inflation as the most important. Abortion was also the top electoral concern of Pennsylvania voters, with more than a third of voters choosing abortion as their top issue, according to exit polls.
Voters in solidly Democratic states also voted for abortion on Tuesday, with California and Vermont each approving an amendment that will explicitly protect abortion rights in their states’ constitutions.
Arizona court suspends near-total abortion ban
In Kentucky, many Republican voters appeared to vote on the side of abortion rights, even as they solidly re-elected one of the most conservative members of the Senate, Sen. Rand Paul. The Kentucky referendum would have changed the state’s constitution to clarify that it does not protect the right to abortion, making it virtually impossible to challenge anti-abortion legislation in court.
Abortion has been almost entirely illegal in Kentucky since the summer. For abortions to resume, the defenders of the right to abortion would have must secure an additional victory next week, when the Kentucky Supreme Court has the opportunity to decide whether the state constitution protects the right to abortion.
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Dawn Riley, a 55-year-old independent consultant and farmer from Kentucky, said the anti-abortion amendment was “a step too far” for many.
“I really feel like at the end of the day, people don’t want this intrusion into their privacy,” said Riley, who worked for Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell (R) at the end of the 1980s. “I think the arguments of children and grandchildren having less rights than their mothers will resonate. Going forward and not going back is a big part of the message.
During the campaign, Wieder, of Kentucky Planned Parenthood, said his team frequently encountered Republican voters planning to cross party lines on the amendment. Many voters have expressed concern about women who have been denied health care across the country due to recent abortion bans, she added.
“This issue really affected them,” Wieder said.
The manual deployed by the abortion rights movement in Kentucky mirrors the one that proved successful in Kansas this summer. Protect Kentucky Access, the group of abortion rights organizations working to defeat the amendment, hired the same campaign manager who led the Kansas effort and rolled out some of the same messages. which they said worked in Kansas – that Americans should be free to make health care decisions without government interference.
How Kansas Became an Abortion Rights Watchdog
Protect Kentucky Access has attempted to broaden its supporter base, attempting to appeal to both traditional proponents of abortion rights and advocates of small government who may be wary of government excesses.
The anti-abortion camp, “Yes For Life,” has focused on activating Kentucky’s large anti-abortion constituency. According to the Pew Research Center’s 2014 Religious Landscape Study, 57% of Kentucky residents believed abortion should be illegal in all or most cases, making Kentucky one of the most anti-abortion states in the nation.
In details of the message, groups on either side of the Kentucky referendum frustrated their opponents with what they saw as a misleading message.
Titus Folks, a 28-year-old anti-abortion activist who worked in Kentucky with Students for Life, blamed ‘misinformation’ for the amendment’s failure, accusing abortion-rights supporters of misinterpreting the ballot initiative in their campaign.
“We’ve had a lot of confusion about what these ballot initiatives mean and what they do,” he said. “It’s hard for people to navigate.”
People said he was confident public opinion would “stabilize” on abortion over the coming year, with people eventually becoming more supportive of anti-abortion measures.
Michigan abortion vote measure to go to voters in November
Several Michigan voters, including those who do not identify with a political party, said they voted for the measure so politicians would not have a say in whether a woman could have an abortion.
Vreni Merrell-Myers, 22, and her father, Kirby Merrell, knocked on door after door Monday night in Royal Oak, Michigan, the first time the couple had canvassed.
Merrell-Myers said it was “terrifying” to think a doctor could lose their medical license for trying to help them access basic health care.
“Roe your vote,” Kirby Merrell replied, referring to a phrase abortion-rights supporters have used to mobilize their base to defeat anti-abortion candidates.
Kim Bellware reported from Louisville. Rachel Roubein reported from Detroit. Emily Guskin contributed to this report.
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