By Family Research Council
Since the U.S. Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade was dismantled last summer, the fight against abortion has largely moved to the state level. Although many in the pro-life movement argue that there is a strong case to be made for the federal government’s duty to protect the lives of unborn children, leftists have shifted their focus to campaigning for abortion on a state-by-state basis, with a particular emphasis on constitutional amendments declaring abortion a “right” under state law.
For example, California, Michigan, Ohio, and Vermont have all voted to declare abortion a constitutional “right,” while Kansas and Kentucky rejected proposals to bar abortion from being enshrined in the state constitution. Most of these measures have been adopted via referendum, and abortion activists are relying on the same tactic in other states.
In Nebraska, a proposal has already been submitted to election authorities to declare abortion a state constitutional “right.” The group Protect Our Rights, which is endorsed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Nebraska and Planned Parenthood Advocates of Nebraska, introduced a ballot initiative to constitutionally protect abortion up to the point of “fetal viability,” which would be determined by individual doctors on a case-by-case basis.
Nebraska Governor Jim Pillen (R) signed a law in May protecting the unborn after 12 weeks. In South Dakota, a group called Dakotans for Health is collecting signatures to introduce a ballot initiative barring the state government from protecting unborn lives until the third trimester. Abortion is currently illegal in South Dakota — the state’s last Planned Parenthood abortion facility committed its final (legal) abortion last June.
The Missouri Women and Family Research Fund is also collecting signatures for pro-abortion ballot initiatives, although the proposed language is currently under litigation after Republican Jamie Corley argued pro-life Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft’s ballot initiative summaries relied on partisan language critical of abortion. Led by Corley, the Missouri Women and Family Research Fund is seeking to add numerous exemptions to the state’s current law, which protects the unborn in all cases except when a mother’s life is in danger. If adopted, the ballot initiative would make it a “fundamental right” to “choose to have an abortion” during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy and would block criminal or civil penalties for abortionists.
Leftists in the Sunshine State have formed a coalition called Floridians Protecting Freedom which includes Florida’s ACLU branch and the Florida Alliance of Planned Parenthood Affiliates (FAPPA) and are pushing pro-abortion ballot initiatives. According to FAPPA’s website, the proposals aim to “constitutionally protect Floridians’ freedom to access abortion.” The proposed language states, “No law shall prohibit, penalize, delay, or restrict abortion before viability or when necessary to protect the patient’s health, as determined by the patient’s healthcare provider.”
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (R) signed a six-week protection bill into law earlier this year, superseding the state’s 15-week law. The 15-week law is currently under review by the Florida Supreme Court but, if it is allowed to go into effect, will be replaced by the six-week law. Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody (R) and other pro-life leaders and groups have asked the state Supreme Court to intervene and prevent the initiative from appearing on the ballot.
A coalition in the Grand Canyon State, called Arizona for Abortion Access, is pushing a ballot initiative to include a “fundamental right” to abortion in the state’s constitution. The organization includes the ACLU of Arizona, Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona, and NARAL Arizona. Abortion is currently illegal in Arizona past 15 weeks, but the state Supreme Court could allow almost total protections for the unborn from 1864 to go back into effect.
In Maryland, voters will decide next year whether to enshrine abortion in their state’s constitution. Lawmakers agreed in March to put the constitutional amendment up for referendum. The amendment states that “every person, as a central component of an individual’s rights to liberty and equality, has the fundamental right to reproductive freedom, including but not limited to the ability to make and effectuate decision to prevent, continue, or end one’s own pregnancy.” Abortion is currently unrestricted in Maryland.
In New York, leftist groups are funneling millions of dollars into efforts to enshrine abortion in the state constitution. Planned Parenthood Action and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) of New York, among others, have pledged a combined $20 million to promote the measure in digital and broadcast advertisements, as well as to back canvassers. The constitutional amendment would make “reproductive healthcare and autonomy” a protected civil rights category. Abortion is currently legal in New York up to 24 weeks of pregnancy, and permitted after 24 weeks if the mother’s life is in danger.
The Colorado Reproductive Health, Rights, and Justice Coalition is pushing a similar amendment in the Rocky Mountain State. Backed by organizations like the ACLU of Colorado and Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, the coalition is collecting signatures for an amendment to not only ensconce abortion in the state constitution but to also undo an existing measure which bars the state from funding abortion. That law also ensures that abortion is not covered by government-provided health insurance programs. Abortion in Colorado is currently unrestricted and state legislators have repeatedly passed pro-abortion laws over the past two years.
Although mainstream media outlets predicted pro-abortion efforts in Nevada would “likely” be successful, a judge has shot down a leftist-led ballot initiative. Abortion during the first 24 weeks of pregnancy was already codified into Nevada’s constitution in 1990, but Planned Parenthood-allied Nevadans for Reproductive Freedom launched an attempt to constitutionally allow abortion at any point throughout pregnancy. District court judge James Russell blocked the effort earlier this month, ruling that the proposed language was too broad. The proposed language would have ensured a “fundamental right to reproductive freedom,” which would include “all matters relating to pregnancy.” Russell ruled that the proposed language was “logrolling,” violating a Nevada law which prohibits combining unrelated subjects in a single ballot initiative.
He wrote, “This Court agrees … that the Petition embraces a multitude of subjects that amount to logrolling. Subsection 1, alone, embraces the following subjects: prenatal care, childbirth, postpartum care, birth control, vasectomy, tubal ligation, abortion, abortion care, management of a miscarriage, and infertility care.” He added that “it is unclear how a vasectomy relates to infertility care or postpartum care. Likewise, it is unclear how postpartum care is related to abortions or birth control.” Russel concluded, “Thus, it is improper to characterize these broad categories as a ‘single subject’ because there is no explanation as to how these provisions are functionally related.”
The South Carolina Supreme Court also handed pro-lifers a recent victory, rejecting Planned Parenthood’s attempt to block the state’s heartbeat law. After the court upheld the heartbeat law in August, Planned Parenthood asked the justices to block the law, arguing that the legislation’s definition of a “fetal heartbeat” was ambiguous. Earlier this month, the court declined to hear Planned Parenthood’s challenge. This follows Georgia’s Supreme Court upholding the Peach State’s own heartbeat law last month, originally passed in 2019 and enacted once Roe was overturned.
S.A. McCarthy serves as a news writer at The Washington Stand.
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