Read more Stateline coverage of how states are either protecting or restricting access to abortion.
Emboldened by six wins — and zero losses — in this month’s midterm elections, pro-choice advocates are considering another round of election measures in 2024 that would enshrine reproductive freedom in state constitutions.
This time, they’re targeting mostly states that already have strict abortion restrictions, hoping to outperform lawmakers and courts in anti-abortion states that aren’t keeping up with most residents.
Based on the Midterms, the presence of such initiatives on the ballot could give a boost to Democratic candidates as well. Contrary to predictions, abortion was the top issue for a large percentage of voters, particularly in states that had an abortion measure on the ballot, according to Exit polls.
Only 17 states allow citizens, not just lawmakers, to initiate ballot proposals to amend the state constitution. Among them, pro-choice advocates in at least 10 states with abortion bans or severe restrictions – Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma and South Dakota – are already discussing strategies and tactics for introducing abortion initiatives in the 2024 presidential election .
“You’re starting now because the process of getting any kind of measure on the ballot takes a very long time,” said Kelly Hall, executive director of the Fairness Project, which provides technical support for state ballot initiatives.
Abortion rights lend themselves particularly well to the voting process, she said, because it gives voters the power to determine how they are governed when elected leaders disagree with public opinion.
According to a June 2022 Pew Research Center poll, 6 in 10 Americans nationwide say abortion should be legal in all or most cases. (The Pew Charitable Trusts fund the center and state border.)
In an October poll, 59.1% of Ohioans said they would support amending the state’s abortion rights constitution. In July, 57% of Florida residents said they were comfortable with the US Supreme Court decision in Roe v. knocking Wade down, disagree. And even in crimson Arkansas, a whopping 79% of respondents to a poll released earlier this month said abortion should be legal, at least in certain circumstances.
In the most recent election, progressive electoral policies to expand Medicaid to low-income people, legalize marijuana use, and raise the minimum wage have been successful in both blue and red states.
“Our experience of using voting measures in conservative states is that even in conservative parts of the country we can win if we are able to rid certain issues of partisan labels, and that’s exactly what we have this year with abortion and procreation seen rights,” Hall said.
Ahead of the midterm election, Clarke Forsythe, an anti-abortion senior counsel at Americans United for Life, said he was concerned about pro-abortion constitutional amendments in California, Michigan and Vermont because he said they would take the issue out of the hands of elected officials guides.
According to Ballotpedia, which tracks elections in all 50 states, only pro-choice advocates in Oklahoma and South Dakota have submitted constitutional amendment initiatives for the 2024 election. Additionally, according to recent newspaper articles, advocates in Ohio are publicly discussing a similar measure.
But for the roughly 34 million women of childbearing age who live in the 25 states that now have or will soon have bans on abortion, waiting more than two years to access the procedure in their home state is not an option .
For this reason, national abortion rights advocates are urging states where abortion remains legal to continue investing in resources to help low-income women who would have to travel for the procedure. Proponents are also urging pro-abortion states to use government revenues to prop up clinics to prepare for an influx of patients.
In the meantime, state and national abortion advocates intend to pursue all legal and political strategies to provide access to as many patients as possible. Even so, prospects for expanding access to the trial over the next two years in states with GOP-dominated lawmakers and conservative courts after the midterm elections are slim.