Along with the economy and the future of democracy, abortion is a key issue in the US 2022 mid-term elections. Many Democrats centered their campaigns on protecting reproductive rights after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, and US president Joe Biden has promised to codify a federal right to abortion should his party keep its majority in Congress.
But a woman’s right to choose is primarily a state matter, and this election day it is on the ballot in five states where voters are being asked to vote on constitutional amendments that either protect or deny abortion, or declare whether a fetus is a person. Further, two governors races (in Wisconsin, and Michigan) are especially important for abortion access.
California, Michigan, and Vermont are giving citizens the opportunity to confirm or add constitutional protection of abortion in their states.
In Michigan, the question is on a proposal to amend the constitution to state that an individual has a right to reproductive freedom, and that it is the state’s role to protect that right. If the measure passed, it would make any future abortion bans unconstitutional, and prevent the reinstatement of a 1931 anti-abortion law. Recent polls say 55% of voters in Michigan support the amendment.
In Vermont (pdf), a proposed constitutional amendment would similarly protect a wide range of reproductive health rights, including abortion. About 75% of voters have said they favor the measure.
In California, a proposed constitutional amendment would explicitly protect abortion and contraception, saying the government has no right to interfere with either. The measure is expected to pass with the support of 69% of voters.
In Kentucky (pdf), the ballot question has the opposite goal, asking voters to add a constitutional amendment that forbids laws protecting abortion rights and directing government funds toward it. We were unable to find voter polling on this measure, but the pro-choice advocates at Protect Kentucky Access have raised five times as much money ($5.2 million) as the anti-abortion group Yes for Life, which raised less than $1 million.
In Montana, voters are deciding on a law that seeks to establish personhood for fetuses. The law would force doctors to try and resuscitate or treat fetuses with severe anomalies and complications that are incompatible with life. More than 700 medical providers have signed a letter against the ballot measure.
Out of the several gubernatorial races, two are immediately important for abortion rights. In both Wisconsin and Michigan, Democratic governors have stopped Republican legislatures from ratifying abortion restrictions. Those governors are up for re-election, and by extension, so is the fate of reproductive rights in their states.
In Wisconsin, incumbent Democratic governor Tony Evers is up against Tim Michels, a Donald Trump endorsee who is anti-choice abortion, though his exact position changed during the campaign. While Michels originally said he supported an 1849 law banning abortion in all cases except when the life of the mother was at stake, he later said he would sign legislation that granted abortion ban exceptions for rape and incest.
In Michigan, two women are contesting the seat. Incumbent Democratic governor Gretchen Whitmer, who filed the lawsuits that have temporarily blocked the state’s 1931 abortion ban from going back into effect, , is facing Republican Tudor Dixon. Dixon has said she won’t interfere with the results of the vote on the proposed state constitutional amendment to codify abortion rights, while Whitmer would offer protection of abortion rights even if the ballot measure doesn’t pass.