Abortion rights strengthened with defeat of Kentucky amendment

Abortion rights strengthened with defeat of Kentucky amendment

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) – Voters in Kentucky have rejected a ballot measure seeking to deny constitutional protections for abortion, giving a victory to abortion rights supporters who have seen access to the procedure eroded by Republican lawmakers in the deeply red state.

The result of the election that ended on Tuesday highlighted what appeared to be a disconnect between voter sentiment and the expectations of Kentucky’s GOP-dominated legislature, which imposed a near-total ban on abortions and put the proposed constitutional amendment on the ballot.

While this is an important moral victory for abortion rights advocates, defeating the amendment will have no practical impact on abortion rights if a sweeping ban on the procedure is approved by lawmakers survives a legal challenge currently in the state Supreme Court.

Yet the rejection of the amendment leaves open the possibility that abortion could be declared a state right by the court.

Rachel Sweet of Protect Kentucky Access, an abortion-rights coalition, hailed the outcome as a “historic victory” against “government excess” in Kentuckians’ personal medical decisions.

“The people of Kentucky have spoken and their answer is no – no to hardline politicians banning abortion and making private medical decisions on their behalf,” said Amber Duke, acting executive director of the ACLU of Kentucky.

Abortion-rights supporters who suffered years of setbacks in the Kentucky legislature were jubilant but said there was still much work to be done in their quest to restore access to the procedure.

The Family Foundation, a faith-based organization opposed to abortion, said Wednesday that “the fight for unborn children” will continue.

“While we are disappointed with the results of Amendment 2, the pro-life movement in Kentucky and across the country is committed to continuing to stand up for life,” David Walls, the group’s executive director, said in a written statement. . “Kentucky’s laws protecting unborn children remain in place and Kentuckians have returned large pro-life legislative majorities to the General Assembly.”

The Kentucky ballot question asked voters if they wanted to change the constitution to say, “To protect human life, nothing in this Constitution shall be construed as guaranteeing or protecting a right to abortion or requiring the funding of abortion.”

A year ago, lawmakers added the proposed amendment to the slate for the 2022 general election in a decision that some say would drive more conservative voters to the polls at a time before the US Supreme Court ruling. United in June nullifying Roe against Wade.

Since then, Kansas voters rejected an election measure that would have changed that state’s constitution to allow lawmakers to tighten restrictions or ban abortions. Kentucky was among a handful of states to hold abortion referendums this fall.

The Kentucky Supreme Court has a hearing next week on challenges by the state’s two remaining abortion clinics to the near-total abortion ban approved by lawmakers. The High Court decided this summer that the ban would remain in place while it considers the challenges.

Abortion-related court battles have been frequent and fierce in Kentucky since Republicans took full control of the legislature after the 2016 election. Lawmakers enacted a series of laws adding restrictions and requirements for those who seek to terminate their pregnancy.

Fervor mounted on both sides during the campaign, as donations poured in, politicians spoke out, volunteers surveyed neighborhoods and advocates accused the opposition of misleading voters.

The legislature had previously enacted a so-called trigger law banning nearly all abortions if the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. The only times abortions are currently allowed in Kentucky are to save a pregnant woman’s life or to prevent disabling injury. There are no exceptions for victims of rape or incest. Pointing to the extremely narrow exceptions, proponents of abortion rights said the legislature’s hardline stance on abortion necessitated constitutional protections.

Abortion opponents, pushing for the amendment, said it would have ensured that abortion policy came from the legislature – where they say it belongs – and not from the courts.

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Follow AP’s election coverage at: https://apnews.com/hub/2022-midterm-elections.

See https://apnews.com/hub/explaining-the-elections to learn more about the issues and factors at play in the 2022 midterm elections.

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