Kentucky has not been a blue-voting state in recent years. But there and in several other states on November 8, voters chose new protections for abortion rights, in an apparent repudiation of the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision in June that overturned Roe v. Wade. As in North Dakota on August 2, rural and small-town voters played important roles.
The National Women’s Law Center summarized the results in five key states. All were positive for reproductive choice:
- California voters passed an amendment stating that the state constitution cannot interfere with reproductive freedom.
- Kentucky voters rejected a ballot measure that stated that the state constitution does not include any right to abortion.
- In Michigan, a ballot measure passed that will amend the state constitution to confer a right to reproductive freedom.
- Montana voters rejected an anti-choice effort to criminalize healthcare providers and interfere with medical decisions.
- And in Vermont, voters approved an amendment to the state constitution to ensure a right to “personal reproductive autonomy.”
Substantial numbers of voters in each state – urban, suburban, and rural – rejected different sorts of restrictions on a woman’s right to choose. This is very similar to the August vote in Kansas.
In Kentucky, Rand Paul, one of the most conservative US Senators, was re-elected easily, winning 117 of 120 counties. Only the two largest urban counties and one other voted for Paul’s opponent. But the same voters in 22 Kentucky counties said no to the anti-abortion amendment. Seven of these 22 were counties with less than 10,000 votes.
The measure would have amended the Kentucky Constitution to say that nothing in that constitution creates a right to abortion or requires government funding for abortion. The amendment failed 52.4 percent to 47.6 percent. In eight of the state’s 23 smallest counties, at least 40% said no. Senator Paul won all of the same counties by margins of between 29 and 76%. In 2020 Donald Trump won these counties by margins of 33 to 81%.
In Michigan, the ballot question was on a proposal to create in the state constitution a right to reproductive freedom on all matters such as abortion and contraception. This passed 56.7 to 43.3 percent, outpolling Governor Gretchen Whitmer, who won 54.5 to 43.9 percent. As in Kansas, the big cities voted yes, but so did many rural folks. In 24 Michigan counties with less than 10,000 votes, only one had less than 40% voting yes on the amendment.
In Kansas on August 2, voters 59 to 41% said, no, the state constitution should not be amended to remove protections for abortion rights. An examination of votes in all 105 Kansas counties shows that, in 31 of the 76 counties with less than 5,000 votes on the abortion question, 40% or more of the voters said no, abortion protections should not be removed.
Many of those Kansas counties and many rural places in the five states voting on November 8 were very strong for Donald Trump in 2020 and 2016. But the loss of reproductive freedom was a bridge too far for many conservatives and independents.