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Kentucky voters reject constitutional amendment on abortion


LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Kentucky voters have rejected a ballot measure aimed at removing any constitutional protections for abortion, handing a victory to abortion rights advocates who saw Republican lawmakers in the red state restrict access to the procedure.

Tuesday’s election results showed a gap between voter sentiment and the expectations of the Republican-dominated Kentucky Legislature, which has enacted a near-total abortion ban and placed a proposed constitutional amendment on the ballot.

Despite a significant moral victory for abortion rights advocates, the rejection of the amendment will have no practical effect on abortion rights if a blanket ban on the procedure approved by lawmakers survives a legal challenge now before the state Supreme Court.

However, the rejection of the amendment leaves open the possibility that abortion could be declared a state right by the courts.

Rachel Sweet of Protect Kentucky Access, an abortion rights coalition, hailed the outcome as a “historic victory” against “government intrusion” into Kentuckians’ personal medical decisions.

“Kentuckians have spoken, and their answer is no — not to extremist politicians who ban abortions and make private medical decisions on their behalf,” said Amber Duke, interim executive director of the ACLU of Kentucky.

Abortion rights advocates, who have endured years of legislative setbacks, cheered but said there is still work to be done in their quest to restore access to the procedure.

In Kentucky, voters were asked on the ballot whether they wanted to amend the constitution to say: “To protect human life, nothing in this Constitution shall be construed to provide or protect the right to abortion or to require funding for abortion.”

A year ago, lawmakers introduced a proposed amendment to the 2022 general election slate that some said would sway more conservative voters even before the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June.

Kansas voters have since rejected a ballot measure that would have changed the state constitution and allowed lawmakers to tighten restrictions or ban abortions. Kentucky was one of the few states that planned an abortion referendum this fall.

The Kentucky Supreme Court will hear next week a challenge by the state’s two remaining abortion clinics to a nearly total abortion ban approved by lawmakers. This summer, the Supreme Court ruled that the ban would remain in place while it looked into the challenges.

Abortion-related legal battles have been frequent and fierce in Kentucky since Republicans took full control of the legislature following the 2016 election. Lawmakers have passed a series of laws that add restrictions and requirements for those who want to terminate a pregnancy.

During the campaign, passion was high on both sides, with donations pouring in, politicians speaking out, volunteers canvassing neighborhoods, and advocates accusing the opposition of misleading voters.

The Legislature previously passed a so-called trigger law that banned nearly all abortions when the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. The only cases in which abortions are currently permitted in Kentucky are to save the life of a pregnant woman or to prevent a disabling injury. There are no exemptions for victims of rape or incest. Pointing to very narrow exceptions, abortion rights advocates have said the legislature’s tough stance on abortion makes constitutional protections necessary.

Abortion opponents, pushing the amendment, said it would ensure that abortion policy comes from the legislature — where they say it belongs — rather than the courts.


Follow AP’s election coverage at: https://apnews.com/hub/2022-midterm-elections.

Check out https://apnews.com/hub/explaining-the-elections to learn more about the issues and factors surrounding the 2022 midterm elections.

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