Abortion rights have been a topic of conversation on the national stage this year, especially as Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett is seen by many as a potential deciding vote in efforts to overturn Roe v. Wade. But as in years past, there are also a number of state-level initiatives on the ballot that could have a big impact on abortion access.
In Louisiana, for example, abortion opponents this year have backed an amendment to the state constitution that would stipulate that nothing in that document guarantees the right to an abortion.
The amendment isn’t a ban on abortion per se — in fact, Louisiana already has what’s sometimes called a “trigger ban” on the procedure, set to take effect if Roe, the landmark 1973 Supreme Court decision establishing the right to an abortion nationwide, is overturned. The amendment, on the ballot as Amendment 1, would essentially provide additional legal protection for that ban if it is ever challenged in court.
Meanwhile, in Colorado, anti-abortion groups have championed a ban on the procedure after 22 weeks’ gestation, through the ballot initiative Proposition 115. The ban would have only one exception: a situation in which “an abortion is immediately required to save the life of a pregnant woman.”
Proposition 115 is especially concerning to abortion-rights groups because Colorado is one of just seven states in the country with no gestational limit on abortion. In fact, patients routinely come there from other states in order to get abortions late in pregnancy, such as in cases of severe fetal abnormalities that sometimes cannot be detected earlier.
The ban would increase the average one-way travel distance for Coloradoans seeking abortions after 22 weeks by 430 miles, according to an analysis by the Guttmacher Institute. And for patients out of state who once relied on Colorado providers, the increase in travel distance could be even greater.
Both ballot measures are a reminder that while abortion often becomes an issue in national elections, many issues that directly affect patients’ access to the procedure are decided on the state and local level.
Louisiana Amendment 1
A yes vote on Amendment 1 would add an amendment to Louisiana’s constitution stipulating that the document does not guarantee any right to an abortion. Nothing would change in the short term, but the amendment could provide legal protection in the future for the state’s “trigger ban” on abortion, which is set to go into effect if Roe is overturned.
A no vote would mean that the amendment would not be added to the constitution, though the “trigger ban” would remain in place.
Colorado Proposition 115
UPDATE: Colorado has rejected Proposition 115.
A yes vote would ban nearly all abortions in the state after 22 weeks; such a ban is likely to be challenged in court.
A no vote would leave Colorado’s policy as it is, with no gestational limit on abortion.