US midterms: After landmark Roe v Wade judgment, states pass initiatives protecting abortion rights

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Voters in five states weighed in on abortion-related ballot measures, initiatives that have taken on new urgency since the US Supreme Court in June overturned the Roe v Wade decision that had legalised abortion nationwide.

Votes are being counted for the US' midterms. 

In August, voters in conservative Kansas defeated a ballot measure aimed at eliminating abortion rights from the state's constitution. Here is a look at Tuesday's results, as forecast by data provider Edison Research.

Kentucky

Voters rejected a measure in conservative Kentucky, which would have established that the state constitution does not protect or recognise a right to an abortion.

While an important short-term victory for abortion rights campaigners, the amendment will have little practical impact if the state's Supreme Court allows recently passed legislation that bans nearly all abortions to stay on the books. At present, there are only two abortion providers in the state.

Michigan

Voters in the battleground state of Michigan backed a ballot initiative declaring abortion as a right protected by the state's constitution.

Anti-abortion campaigners celebrate outside the US
Anti-abortion campaigners celebrate outside the US Supreme Court in Washington, DC.

Reproductive rights groups have said such protections would ensure future abortion access in the state, which has had a Republican-controlled legislature and a Democratic governor.

Conservative Republicans in the state had sought to allow a 1931 abortion ban to be enforced once Roe v Wade was overturned. But a judge ruled on 7 September that the ban, which made no exceptions for rape or incest, violated the state's constitution and could not be enforced.

California

Voters in California, the most populous US state, passed a proposal to enshrine the right to an abortion in its constitution by a wide margin.

READ | US Supreme Court ends constitutional right to abortion

The ballot initiative capped a years-long effort by reproductive rights advocates in the left-leaning state to protect abortion rights, including recent funding from the legislature to help people who live in states where the procedure has been limited or banned seek care in California.

Vermont

Voters decided to include abortion rights in Vermont's state constitution.

As required by state law, the ballot measure had already been approved twice by the Democratic-controlled legislature.

The measure was the culmination of actions to shore up abortion rights, including a new state reproductive rights law, that began in 2019 after former President Donald Trump's appointment in the two prior years of Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh to the US Supreme Court cemented its conservative majority.

Montana

In Montana, voters were asked about a so-called born alive law, which would require medical care to be provided to infants born alive after a failed abortion.

Based on the belief among some anti-abortion activists that babies have been left to die after abortion, labor or "extraction," such as a cesarean section, the measure affirms that all infants born alive are considered legal persons in the state.

Doctors who fail to care for such living infants would be fined up to $50 000 and face imprisonment of up to 20 years. The limited data on these types of incidents suggests they are rare and likely to involve fetuses with severe conditions that make them unlikely to survive.

Other conservative states have enacted similar legislation in recent years. Results were not yet in for this race.



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