Voters will have a chance to defend abortion rights in up to 5 states — here's what to watch
People protest in reaction to the leak of the US Supreme Court draft abortion ruling on May 3, 2022 in New York (AFP/Bryan R. Smith)

America won’t have to wait long in the post-Roe world to see how voters react to the end of federal protection for a woman’s right to an abortion.

Four states – Kansas, Vermont, Kentucky and Montana -- already had abortion-related initiatives on the ballot before the U.S. Supreme Court reversed Roe v. Wade last week. In addition, pro-choice advocates in Michigan are collecting signatures for an amendment enshrining the right to an abortion in the Michigan state constitution.

The next key date to watch will be July 11, by when at least 425,059 signatures from Michigan voters must be turned in to put the “Reproductive Freedom for All” constitutional amendment on the November 8 ballot, the Detroit Free Press reports.

Loren Khogali, executive director for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Michigan, told the newspaper “these next couple weeks are critical.” The ACLU is partnering on the ballot drive with nonprofit Michigan Voices and Planned Parenthood Advocates of Michigan.

“Sommer Foster, the co-executive director of Michigan Voices, said her organization has been handing out petitions all day to first-time volunteers to collect signatures for the ballot measure and is expecting more to sign up,” the report said. “The group has already seen 30,000 people raise their hands to get involved with the campaign, which expects to meet the filing deadline, Foster said.

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“This is an all-hands-on-deck moment," she said. "The (U.S.) Supreme Court has made clear that is it up to us to come together to protect reproductive freedom."

If the organizers get the amendment on the ballot, it will represent the largest number of abortion-related initiatives to face U.S. voters in one election year, according to Ballotpedia. The last time there were four such measures was 1986.

The first test will be an August 2 amendment to Kansas’ state constitution declaring that nothing in it creates a right to abortion (or funding thereof). That would overturn a 2019 opinion by the Kansas Supreme Court which concluded that the state constitution includes a right to bodily autonomy – including abortion, the Kansas City Star reported in May.

The landmark reversal of abortion rights by the U.S. Supreme Court has given “special significance” to the upcoming Kansas vote and it’s reflected in the reelection campaign of Gov. Laura Kelly, the Kansas Reflector reports.

“Anybody who’s been alive in Kansas in the last six months knows that we have an amendment on the primary ballot that would essentially overturn the (state) Supreme Court ruling and say that women’s reproductive rights are not protected under the constitution,” Kelly said.

Of the remaining states with abortion-related ballot items in November, Kentucky and Montana have measure that, like Kansas, further restrict abortions. But Vermont’s “Right to Reproductive Personal Autonomy Amendment would amend the constitution in a way similar to Michigan’s proposal ballot initiative.

Ballotpedia research shows that the pro-choice said has had a strong track record of success on the 47 abortion-related ballots since 1970. The large majority of those measures – 40 -- were put there by groups describing themselves as “pro-life,” with just seven initiated by the pro-choice side.

But voters gave the pro-choice side a victor in 33 (70 percent) of those instances. That includes rejection of 29 to the 40 measures submitted against abortion and approval of four of the seven measures that were pro-choice.

Most of those results came after the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, however, and the fate of the state ballot initiatives related to abortion will be a top-line result of this year’s election cycle. That remains unpredictable.

The Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF), which frequently tracks public opinion on abortion rights, polled after the U.S. Supreme Court opinion overturning Roe had been leaked. It reported June 9 that “nearly two-thirds of adults do not want to see the decision overturned, and a large majority (74%) say abortion should be a personal choice and not something that is regulated by law.

“Looking ahead to the role this decision could play in the anticipated Republican Wave in the midterm elections this November, most voters (57%) say a Supreme Court ruling overturning Roe v. Wade would not make a difference in their motivation to vote in the upcoming midterms and some (6%) say it would make them less motivated to vote.

“On the other hand, nearly four in ten voters (37%) say such a decision would make them more motivated to vote, including at least half of all Democratic voters (55%) and Democratic voters in states where abortion is likely or certain to be banned if Roe is overturned (51%). Majorities of Republican voters (73%) and Republican women voters (74%) say it would not make a difference in their motivation to vote.”