DENVER — This year, voters across the country won't just be picking a president, several states also have questions about abortion on their ballots. After the Supreme Court's Dobbs decision, it was left up to states to decide where they stand.
Many have cracked down on abortion rights while others have worked to protect or even expand them.
In Colorado, there are clashing efforts over abortion, one to protect the practice and one to ban it.
The first would specify that a “living human child” starts at the moment of conception. It would prohibit all abortions in the state without exception. It also allows for the prosecution of those who provide abortions.
Colorado has seen a number of legislative and voter-initiated attempts to ban or limit abortions over the years, including a measure on the 2020 ballot that lost by an 18% margin.
Meanwhile, a proposed constitutional amendment aims to protect abortion rights and remove restrictions for government employees to use their insurance to cover the procedure.
“These decisions should remain with a patient, the person who's taking care of them, their family and their faith and not politicians,” said Karen Middleton, the president of Cobalt. “In these difficult times where, where you live determines what kind of care you get, we think it's really important to be that beacon of hope. And it is really every day I get. Goosebumps were changing people's lives because they're getting access to care that they can't get anywhere else.”
New York voters will consider a constitutional amendment that would add language to the state’s bill of rights specifying that people cannot be denied rights based on a pregnancy, pregnancy outcome or reproductive healthcare and autonomy.
The proposed amendment was placed on the ballot by state lawmakers. The measure, however, does not specifically mention abortion.
In Maryland, voters will also be asked whether they want to approve a constitutional amendment. This one would establish a right to reproductive freedom, which would include the right to make decisions to prevent, continue or end a pregnancy.
The language goes on to say that the state may not directly or indirectly deny, burden or abridge these rights unless justified by a compelling state interest achieved by the least restrictive means.
Other states are earlier in the process but could also see ballot questions like Arizona, Arkansas, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, South Dakota and Missouri. Each of those proposed ballot measures is a little different in what it allows for.
In Arizona, signatures are being gathered to protect abortions under the state constitution. However, once the fetus is viable, am abortion would only be allowed for the physical or mental health of the mother.
In Arkansas, a proposal would stop laws from being created that would ban abortion within the first 20 weeks of a pregnancy. It would, however, make allowances for cases of rape, incest, if the fetus is not considered viable and for the health of the mother.
In Florida, an effort is underway to block a ballot measure from appearing in November to legalize abortion until viability. Abortion rights groups had gone through the proper steps of collecting enough signatures to have question appear on ballots.
However, the state’s Attorney General wants the Supreme Court to bar the question from the ballot, arguing that some of the key terms in the proposed measure are not defined well enough.
In Missouri, two different proposals are making their way through the election process. One of the proposals would allow for constitutional protections of abortions until viability. A second one would allow for abortions up to 12 weeks but would have some exceptions after that.
In Montana, a proposal is in the signature-gathering stage to bar the government from denying abortion rights before viability or when it’s necessary to protect the life of the mother. However, the state’s Attorney General ruled that the measure is legally insufficient, a decision abortion rights groups are appealing to Montana’s supreme court.
In Nebraska, groups are working to collect signatures to ask voters to constitutionally protect abortion rights until the fetus is viable.
In Nevada, the signature-gathering process is also underway to allow for abortions within the first 24 weeks with exceptions later on to protect the health of the mother.
South Dakota’s proposal, meanwhile, would have differing protections based on trimester. In the first trimester, there would be no ban to abortions. In the second trimester, abortions would be restricted except to protect the health of the mother. Abortions would be banned in the final trimester.
It's a long process to get a question on a statewide ballot and some of these proposals are further along than others, but the bottom line is abortion is still top of mind in many states in a post-Dobbs political landscape.