In Vermont, California, Michigan and Kentucky, voters elected to protect reproductive rights in their communities through ballot initiatives that sought to either defend or restrict abortion care. Three initiatives — in Vermont, California and Michigan — incorporated reproductive freedom into the states’ constitutions, while a fourth, in Kentucky, was an anti-abortion amendment that would have codified that the state does not recognize a right to abortion.
Results in Montana have not been certified yet, but voters appear poised to reject a referendum titled Require Care for Infants Born Alive, a misleading anti-abortion measure that would create more barriers to health care. As of Wednesday afternoon, the measure was losing by nearly 5 points with 86% of the vote reported.
And the ballot initiatives weren’t the only place where abortion protections prevailed. Abortion-rights advocates claimed victories in critical gubernatorial and senate races, such as those in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan and New Mexico, as well as the North Carolina legislature. Abortion-rights supporters may see even more wins as states continue to count votes.
“This is a seismic win for abortion rights in a battleground state,” said Nancy Northup, the president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights. “Until there is national legislation that protects abortion rights across the country, we will continue to work to ensure that state constitutions protect the right to abortion.”
Although Michigan was the most watched ballot initiative of the night, it was not the most stunning result of the five. Kentucky and Montana, two deeply Republican states that have historically opposed abortion, voted against anti-abortion ballot initiatives. According to the count as of Wednesday afternoon, 52% of Montanans voted against the state’s anti-abortion referendum.
“Over 60% of our counties don’t have a practicing OB-GYN. We, in Kentucky, really struggle to get care. And abortion care is health care, and Kentuckians see it that way,” she added. “They may align with political leaders for other issues, but on this one, they stand firm with abortion access.”
Initial exit polls show that abortion was the second-most important issue to voters nationally, following closely behind the economy and inflation. According to a conducted by the African American Research Collaborative, 44% of Black voters, 40% of Native American voters and 39% of Latino voters cited the Supreme Court’s decision to repeal Roe as the primary reason they voted this year.
“I remember a time not too long ago when elected officials would say: ‘We can’t have these conversations around abortion. Just get us into the office, and when we’re there we will do what we can to preserve access to care,’” Alexis McGill Johnson, the president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, told HuffPost on Wednesday morning.
“Seeing folks run on protecting abortion rights, being full-throated in their support, signaling where they are and winning … that’s a lesson I hope the party takes, that I hope reproductive-rights champions recognize,” she said. “There’s no losing when you stay in lockstep with where the majority of people are with respect to reproductive freedom.”