DETROIT — Voters in Michigan and in several states across the US turned out at Tuesday’s midterm elections in favor of abortion rights, delivering a forceful message in favor of reproductive rights just months after the Supreme Court’s historic overturning of Roe v. Wade.
Here in Michigan, voters overwhelmingly approved amending the state constitution to enshrine the right to abortion and protect other forms of reproductive healthcare. Proposal 3, the Right to Reproductive Freedom Initiative, establishes “reproductive freedom,” as a right and protects access to abortion, contraception, sterilization, infertility care, and postpartum care. The Associated Press called the race at 3:42 a.m. ET on Wednesday. According to preliminary results from Decision Desk HQ, 55% voted in favor of the proposal in Tuesday’s midterm election.
“It’s important to keep the right to choose between a woman and her doctor,” said Brittany Wood, 36, who voted in favor of the amendment. “I think this is a really big step in preventing any more degradation of democracy.”
The story was the same elsewhere — even in deep red Kentucky, where voters rejected a proposal that would explicitly deny any constitutional protections for abortion. Republican lawmakers who had passed a near-total ban on abortion wanted the amendment to pass to try to prevent the state’s supreme court, which is currently reviewing challenges to the law, from declaring such a right existed.
“The majority of Kentuckians made one thing clear: abortion is our right and politicians have no place in our private medical decisions,” the ACLU of Kentucky declared in a victory tweet.
With polls closing earlier on the East Coast, Vermont became the first state to amend its constitution to expressly guarantee reproductive rights. Hours later in California, it soon became clear that voters had turned out there, too, in favor of codifying abortion protections in the state’s constitution.
In Montana, votes were still being counted on Wednesday on the state’s “Born Alive” measure, which would classify a fetus or embryo as a legal person who has a right to medical care if they are born prematurely or survive an abortion attempt. With roughly two-thirds of ballots counted, the “no” vote was leading by more than 6%.
“Victories in California, Kentucky, Michigan, Vermont, and Montana make it clear that when the issue of abortion is in the hands of the voters themselves, abortion justice wins,” said Morgan Hopkins, president of the abortion rights group All* Above All. “We know that the majority of people support access to abortion and oppose politicians interfering with our lives and decisions. Across the country, voters made it clear that they will not stand for politicians trying to control their lives and decisions”
At the David Whitney Building in downtown Detroit late Tuesday, a sea of purple T-shirts filled the room where supporters of the “yes” campaign gathered to watch the results roll in. Two large TVs flanked the space, both tuned to CNN’s election coverage. The mood was hopeful as volunteers waited for the race to be called.
“I think we’ll be victorious,” Jamiel Martin told BuzzFeed News. “A historic amount of people signed the petition, and I think a historic amount of people are gonna vote [for it].”
Julie Falbaum, another campaign volunteer, said she was worried but optimistic the amendment would pass. “The feeling out there has been really positive," Falbaum said. “I’m nervous because who wouldn’t be?”
The measure’s passage comes just over four months after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, the landmark decision that legalized abortion nearly 50 years ago. As states across the country enacted bans on the medical procedure, abortion access in Michigan was left in the hands of the courts. A judge declared one 1931 state law banning the procedure without exceptions as unconstitutional, but without action by voters, it was unclear whether abortion would remain legal.
Pushing his sleeping newborn twins in a stroller as he exited a polling place in downtown Detroit with his spouse on Tuesday afternoon, Tyler Jones told BuzzFeed News that he voted “yes” on Proposal 3.
The couple had supported abortion rights before they had children, but people told them they’d feel the “exact opposite” after having kids, Jones said. “Well, we had kids, and we still felt the same way,” he said. ●
Clarissa-Jan Lim reported from Detroit, while Stephanie Baer reported from Los Angeles and David Mack from New York City.