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Abortion ballot initiatives


WORLD Radio - Abortion ballot initiatives

Abortion-related laws voted on in five states

California Gov. Gavin Newsom (back row, center right), U.S. Sen. Alex Padilla (back row, center left), California constitutional officers, Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California President and CEO Jodi Hicks (front second right), and supporters pose for photos at a rally to turn out and vote YES on Proposition 1 at Long Beach City College in Long Beach, Calif., on Sunday. Associated Press/Photo by Damian Dovarganes

NICK EICHER, HOST: Coming up next on The World and Everything in It:

It’s Election Day, and voters in five states will weigh in ballot measures related to abortion. This morning, we have WORLD’s reporter on the life beat to answer some questions about them.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: That would be Leah Savas! Good morning, Leah.


REICHARD: Well, first off, which states have abortion related measures on the ballot?

SAVAS: The states are Michigan, California, Vermont, Kentucky and Montana.

REICHARD: Okay, so tell us what each ballot measure would do.

SAVAS: Well, three are pro-abortion. They all propose constitutional amendments to make abortion a right in the state constitutions. Michigan has Proposal 3, California has Proposition 1, and Vermont has Proposal 5.

REICHARD: And what about the pro life ballot measures?

SAVAS: Two states have pro-life measures on the ballot: Kentucky and Montana. Kentucky’s is a constitutional amendment. It's Amendment 2: to clarify no right to abortion or funding of abortion in the state constitution. And Montana's doesn't have such a catchy name. It's just LR 131. And it's the only one that's not a constitutional amendment. It would require doctors to give life saving care to babies born alive, including after abortions.

REICHARD: All right, you know, I thought Kentucky already had a trigger law that said if Roe was overturned, abortion would be illegal there except for the life of the mother or to prevent severe physical impairment of the mother. Leah, why isn't that enough? Why have an amendment?

SAVAS: Kentucky does have that abortion ban that you mentioned. And it went into effect when the Dobbs ruling came down, but has faced legal challenges from pro abortion groups. And at one point a court actually blocked its enforcement. It is currently in effect but the lawsuits against it argue that the law violates rights in the state constitution. They're all arguing for a state level version of Roe v Wade. So this amendment in Kentucky would be a big pro-life win because it would act as a shield against future state Supreme Court rulings declaring a right to abortion. So a note about Kentucky's amendment, though. It's actually very similar to the pro-life amendment that failed in Kansas this August during the primaries. But the benefit of this Kentucky amendment, according to some people I've spoken with, is that it's shorter than the Kansas one. So it's not as easy to misconstrue. Shorter ballot measures tend to do better at the ballot box because voters have an easier time understanding what they're reading.

REICHARD: Right, it makes sense. I know pro-abortion groups are advertising their proposed amendments. How do the ads compare to what the amendments will actually do if they pass?

SAVAS: Yeah, these groups are advertising these amendments as amendments that would restore the rights that women had under Roe v. Wade. That's the hot topic right now. So that's the issue they're really focusing on. But in reality, the Vermont and California measures wouldn't really change the abortion laws there at all. Vermont already allows abortion at any stage for any reason. And California has a broad mental health exception after viability that basically allows abortion in any case as well.

REICHARD: And then Michigan also has a pro-abortion amendment. Tell us about that one.

SAVAS: So yeah, the one in Michigan would expand legal abortion past the current limit. Right now in the state, you can't get an abortion past viability unless your life's in danger. But this law would allow for abortions after that for broad mental health reasons. But, you know, since the language of reproductive freedom is pretty broad and largely undefined in these proposals, they have the potential to influence things far beyond the abortion issue.

REICHARD: Leah, can you give us some specific examples of how Michigan's Proposal 3 we would do that?

SAVAS: Yeah. So in Michigan, the amendment would invalidate state laws that conflict with this new right of reproductive freedom. But the concern is that it doesn't list which laws exactly. So pro-lifers are asking, you know, does that mean it will invalidate health code requirements for abortion facilities? Will that throw out parental consent for minors to get abortions and sterilizations?

I've even heard the concern that it would invalidate the state laws prohibiting statutory rape, since that could be construed as part of reproductive freedom. And abortion groups deny a lot of these things. The reality is that if the amendment passes, it wouldn't be an automatic trigger to nix all those laws, but the courts will have to work out specific applications of the amendment as cases arise. So it could be some time until we see just how things fall.

REICHARD: Leah, have these three proposed amendments that are pro-abortion, which one would you say is the most extreme?

SAVAS: I've heard the most about the one here in Michigan since I live here. And pro-life groups are saying that it has the potential to make Michigan the most extreme pro-abortion state in the country, which is really saying something for Michigan since we're not California. We're not a liberal New England state. I talked to a couple pro life legal experts about this, including Steve Adan at Americans United for life.

STEVEN ADEN: Which one is worst in this race to the bottom? I'd have to say it's a dead heat. All three are trying to find and create an absolute right to abortion. Choose your poison. But all are bad in different ways.

SAVAS: So basically, it's hard to pick the worst one. But the biggest concern for pro-life groups is that these amendments would essentially prevent the states from passing and enforcing new laws that would protect unborn babies. We've seen what a difficulty state level right to abortions have proven for states like Kansas in their attempts to pass pro-life laws. And specifically here in Michigan, it would prevent our currently unenforceable pre-Roe law protecting babies from ever taking effect. And that alone would be a major setback for the pro-life movement in the state.

REICHARD: So much is at stake and today's elections. Thanks so much for joining us today Leah. I appreciate all your hard work.

SAVAS: Thanks for having me.

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.


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