Abortion Referendums: Voters Reject Restrictions in Kentucky and Montana

Meanwhile, California, Michigan and Vermont also voted to protect abortion access.

Dan Avery Former Writer
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Dan Avery
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Protestors demonstrating against Kentucky's Amendment 2

Kentucky's Amendment 2 would have changed the state constitution to say there was no "right to abortion."

Stefani Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images

In the first nationwide elections since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June, voters in five states cast ballots Tuesday on abortion referendums.

As of Wednesday morning with significant numbers of precincts reporting, California, Michigan and Vermont have approved ballot initiatives that change their respective state constitutions to expressly guarantee abortion access.

Vermont's Proposal 5 so far has the widest margin of victory of the abortion referendums. The measure passed 77.4% to 22.6% with 99 percent of precincts reporting,  according to the Associated Press. The measure creates a constitutional right to "personal reproductive autonomy."

California's Proposition 1, which adds language protecting "reproductive freedom" passed by a margin of 65.2% to 34.8% with 41% of precincts reporting, according to the AP.

Michigan's Proposal 3 was approved 55.6% to 44.5% with 85% of precincts reporting, according to the AP. It affirms an individual's right to make decisions "about all matters relating to pregnancy," including contraception, fertility, abortion and childbirth.

Elsewhere, measures that would have limited reproductive rights floundered at the ballot box.

Kentucky's Amendment 2 was defeated with 47.5% voting yes and 52.5% voting no, with 86% of precincts reporting, according to the AP. The measure would have added language to the state constitution saying that the state doesn't "secure or protect a right to abortion or require the funding of abortion."

Regardless of the ballot measure, abortion in Kentucky remains illegal from the point of fertilization unless the mother is at risk of dying or of having a "life-sustaining organ" impaired. 

Montana's Legislative Referendum 131, commonly known as the Born Alive Infant Protection Act, was down with 47.4% voting yes and 52.6% voting no with 80 percent of precincts reporting, according to the AP. However, the AP has not declared a final outcome for this measure yet.

LR 131 would have extended legal personhood to embryos and fetuses and required doctors to provide life-sustaining treatment to an infant "at any stage of development, who, after expulsion or extraction, breathes, has a beating heart or has definite movement of voluntary muscles."

Health care workers who didn't provide such treatment, no matter the condition of the newborn, would have faced felony criminal charges and a $50,000 fine. Opponents of the measure said it interfered with how parents and doctors dealt with newborns born with fatal conditions.

These five initiatives -- the most abortion-related referendums in a single election cycle -- went before voters five months after the Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision guaranteeing a woman's constitutional right to an abortion. 

As of Nov. 8, 15 states have begun enforcing either total or near-complete abortion bans, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a nonprofit focused on reproductive rights.

Read more: Abortion Laws in Every State