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Kentucky rejects constitutional amendment against abortion

Kentucky rejects constitutional amendment against abortion

Counter-protesters hold signs outside a rally encouraging voters to vote for Amendment 2, which would add a permanent ban on abortion to Kentuckys state constitution, on the steps of the Kentucky State Capitol in Frankfort, Kentucky on October 1, 2022. \

Stephanie Reynolds | AFP | Getty Images

In a surprise victory for reproductive rights, voters in conservative Kentucky rejected a proposed amendment to the state constitution that would have protected the state’s abortion ban from legal challenge, according to NBC News.

About 52% of those who voted rejected the amendment that says there is no right to abortion under the state constitution.

Kentucky banned abortion immediately after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June. The amendment that went to voters on Tuesday was an attempt by anti-abortion activists to shield the state’s ban from legal challenges by making it ironclad under the state constitution.

Although abortion remains illegal in Kentucky, the defeat of the constitutional amendment will make it easier for reproductive rights activists to fight the ban in state courts.

“This is a victory for bodily autonomy and the right of all Kentuckians to make the best decisions for themselves, but the fight is not over,” said Amber Duke, executive director of the ACLU of Kentucky. “We will now continue our fight in state court to restore access to abortion in the Commonwealth.”

The defeat of the amendment in Kentucky is another indication that there are limits to anti-abortion policies even in conservative states. Protect Kentucky Access, a coalition that opposed the amendment, ran a moderate campaign to win over conservatives who support abortion restrictions but also believe the procedure is necessary in some situations.

Kentucky’s abortion ban makes performing the medical procedure a felony punishable by up to 5 years in prison. There are no exceptions for rape or incest, but there is one when the mother’s life is in danger. Women cannot be prosecuted for having an abortion under Kentucky law.

Kentucky has not voted for a Democratic presidential candidate since Bill Clinton in 1996. Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell has represented the state in Washington since 1985. On Tuesday, Kentucky re-elected Republican Sen. Rand Paul, another deeply conservative politician.

The defeat of Kentucky’s anti-abortion measure is the second surprise victory for abortion rights in a conservative state since the Supreme Court overturned Roe over the summer. In August, voters in Kansas overwhelmingly rejected a measure that would have removed the right to abortion from the state constitution.

Other states protect abortion

In another major victory for reproductive rights, Michigan voted Tuesday to protect abortion as a right under its state constitution. Establishing abortion as a right under the Michigan constitution comes after the fall of Roe raised the possibility that a 91-year-old ban on the procedure could be reinstated.

Michigan will now become an important safe haven for women seeking abortions in the Midwest, where access has been shrinking since Roe’s downfall.

California and Vermont also voted to protect abortion as a right under their state constitutions in Tuesday’s midterm elections. Although reproductive rights have never been threatened in these solidly liberal states, the amendments guarantee access to abortion for future generations.

According to NBC News exit polls, a solid majority of midterm voters nationwide, about 60%, said abortion should be legal. And 27% of voters said abortion was the most important issue to them, behind only inflation among voters’ concerns, according to exit polls.

According to polls, 60 percent of voters said they were either dissatisfied or angry with the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe. Thirty-seven percent of voters said they were pleased or satisfied with the high court’s decision to strike down federal abortion rights.

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