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Where Abortion Rights Could Be on the Ballot in 2024

As many as 11 states could have abortion-related constitutional amendments on the ballot this year.

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UPDATE: This article has been revised to reflect recent decisions by state courts, approval of ballot initiatives, and other status changes. 

Since the Supreme Court’s 2022 decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization stripped Americans of a federal constitutional right to an abortion, state law largely determines whether abortion care is available in a jurisdiction and under what circumstances.

The decision spurred a flurry of new state laws concerning abortion and state constitutional litigation over those laws, as well as efforts to clarify state abortion rights by amending state constitutions. So far, people in California, Michigan, Ohio, and Vermont have voted to amend their constitutions to enshrine abortion rights, while voters in Kansas, Kentucky, and Montana defeated anti-abortion amendments. Activism around such ballot initiatives promises to continue in 2024, as both abortion rights and anti-abortion advocates across the country work to get the issue on the ballot this fall. 

Amending a state constitution though a citizen-driven ballot amendment is an option available in 17 states. Though the exact process varies from state-to-state, in general, citizens seeking to add an amendment to their state ballot must draft amendment language that fits within the state’s legal parameters and gather a certain number of signatures that meet pre-determined requirements, such as signatures from each congressional district. The language of the amendment must be approved and signatures validated by a secretary of state or other designated official. States have different formulas for calculating the number of signatures needed relating to factors like population or voter turnout in a prior election.

Other processes to amend state constitutions include legislature-driven initiatives, where state lawmakers have the power to put constitutional amendments to a statewide vote. Every state provides for a legislature-driven process to amend the constitution, and in every state but Delaware proposed amendments must be put on the ballot and ratified by the public.

This article rounds up the states that either will have or are working toward securing placement on their November 2024 ballots for measures seeking to define abortion rights. As discussed, some states below were attempting to place such a measure, but were unsuccessful.  

States Where an Abortion Amendment Will Be on the Ballot

Colorado’s ballot measure that would enshrine into the state constitution a right to abortion and impede denial or interference with that right, including prohibiting denial of health insurance coverage, was approved in May. No laws currently restrict abortion in Colorado. Leaders of the citizen-driven amendment announced in April they had gathered the more than 124,000 signatures from the state’s voters, including, as required, signatures from voters in each of Colorado’s 35 Senate districts. Separately, anti-abortion advocates in Colorado failed to gathering enough signatures for a proposed state statute that would have banned abortions. 

In January, Florida confirmed that advocates had gathered well over the approximately 890,000 signatures required to put a proposed constitutional amendment to recognize a right to abortion on the ballot in that state this coming fall. The proposed amendment says, in part, “No law shall prohibit, penalize, delay, or restrict abortion before viability or when necessary to protect the patient’s health, as determined by the patient’s healthcare provider.” On April 1, the Florida Supreme Court approved the amendment for placement on the ballot, saying that the amendment does not violate the state’s single subject rules and that the ballot title and summary “fairly inform voters, in clear and unambiguous language, of the chief purpose of the amendment and they are not misleading.” The proposed amendment will require 60 percent approval to pass. 

The Maryland legislature voted last year to put a constitutional amendment protecting a right to an abortion on the 2024 ballot. Though abortion is already legal in Maryland, the Right to Reproductive Freedom amendment would enshrine in the Maryland Constitution a right to make decisions to “prevent, continue, or end one’s own pregnancy.” A majority of voters would need to vote “yes” for the amendment to be adopted.

South Dakota’s proposed constitutional amendment, which was approved for the 2024 ballot in May, will allow abortion in the first trimester for any reason; in the second trimester, the procedure would only be allowed to protect the health of the pregnant person. Activists in favor of the amendment submitted about 46,000 valid signatures, more than 10,000 than were necessary. Because the amendment does not protect a general right to an abortion after the first trimester, Planned Parenthood and other abortion-rights organizations have not yet said if they will support the amendment, but did say they are “heartened by the enthusiasm” South Dakota voters showed for securing abortion rights.

States Where an Abortion Amendment Might Be on the Ballot

Proponents of a citizen-led initiative are gathering signatures to place a proposed constitutional amendment on the ballot in Arizona. It would protect a right to abortion until a pregnancy is viable, with certain exceptions extending that timeline, such as to protect the health of the mother. In April, the Arizona Supreme Court declared a 160-year-old law banning nearly all abortion is enforceable, but stayed the decision while a lower court considered additional arguments on the ban’s constitutionality. Advocates say they have collected the nearly 400,000 signatures required, but are hoping to double that amount by the July deadline.

A state “trigger law” made abortion illegal in Arkansas after Roe v. Wade was overturned. A proposed amendment would prevent the state from restricting abortion up to 18 weeks of pregnancy with exceptions beyond that point in cases of rape, incest, fetal abnormalities, or where the pregnant person’s health is threatened. The Arkansas attorney general certified the proposed amendment’s language last month, and Arkansas abortion-rights advocates have begun gathering signatures. Advocates have until early July to collect about 91,000 valid signatures from registered voters.

Abortion is currently banned in Missouri, and the path for an abortion-related amendment in the state has so far been a muddled one. Abortion-rights advocates are collecting signatures in support of a ballot initiative that, if included on the ballot and passed by Missouri voters, would amend the state constitution to include a right to make one’s own decision on reproductive care, including abortion. The language of the proposed amendment reportedly involved months of disputes between various abortion-rights groups, which disagreed over how expansive the language could be without jeopardizing the chances of passage in the conservative state. Last year, the state supreme court held that state officials improperly held up approval of the ballot initiative by disputing — without authority to do so — a state auditor assessment of how much an enacted amendment would cost, thus shortening the time proponents have to gather necessary signatures. About 170,000 signatures were needed by early May to get an initiative on the ballot in Missouri. Proponents said they collected more than two times the number of signatures required, and are awaiting verification of those signatures.

A former Republican congressional staffer who had been pursuing a separate Missouri initiative that would have allowed more limited abortion care said in January that she is deciding whether to continue gathering signatures for her proposal.

After the Montana attorney general blocked a citizen-initiated proposed amendment that would allow people to “make and carry out decisions about one’s own pregnancy, including the right to abortion,” abortion-rights activists sought state supreme court review. The Montana Supreme Court ruled in March that the attorney general had erred in blocking the initiative. In April, the Montana Supreme Court rejected new language drafted by the attorney general, and the court drafted new language that largely tracked to the citizens’ proposal. Though there is debate between the secretary of state and the amendments’ advocates as to whether or not legislative review is now required, the advocates said they will proceed toward gathering signatures and do not expect the legislative review (which is non-binding) to halt their progress. The approximately 60,000 verified signatures from house districts cross the state would be due June 21.

In Nebraska, abortion-rights and anti-abortion activists are trying to get separate ballot initiatives in front of voters in the 2024 election. The abortion-rights groups are pushing for a constitutional amendment that would allow abortion up to “viability,” while the anti-abortion side would prohibit abortion drugs and procedures except in cases to preserve the life of the mother. The groups have until July to gather approximately 122,000 signatures. Abortion is currently legal in Nebraska up to 12 weeks.

In Nevada, abortion-rights advocates filed proposed language with the secretary of state in September for a state constitutional amendment protecting reproductive freedom. Anti-abortion advocates sued over the language of the amendment, and a state district court judge held that it did not meet the requirement that it involve only a “single subject.” Though the Nevada Supreme Court overturned that decision in April, proponents of the amendment drafted a new amendment with narrower language and said they gathered nearly double the about 100,000 signatures required. It is now under review by state officials.

Nevada has an unusual process to approve a constitutional amendment: voters must vote in favor of any change in two consecutive election cycles before the amendment can become part of the constitution. So even if abortion-rights activists succeed in getting a proposed amendment protecting abortion right on the ballot in 2024, it would need to be approved both this year and in 2026 in order to be adopted.

The New York legislature voted in both 2022 and 2023 in favor of an abortion-related amendment, as required by state procedure to get a constitutional amendment on New Yorkers’ ballots. The constitutional amendment would expand New York’s Equal Protection Clause to prohibit the denial of rights to an individual based on their “sex, including sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, pregnancy, pregnancy outcomes, and reproductive healthcare and autonomy.” A simple majority of votes is required for the amendment to pass. In May, a New York judge ruled that legislators made a procedural error in seeking approval of the language of the amendment and that it could not appear on the ballot. The state attorney general said she would appeal the decision, the Associated Press reported.

States Where an Abortion-Related Amendment was Attempted, but Will Not be on the Ballot 

In 2021, the Iowa legislature voted in favor of a constitutional amendment stating that, the “constitution does not recognize, grant, or secure a right to abortion or require the public funding of abortion.” For the amendment to become part of the state constitution, the legislature needed pass the amendment again in its 2023–2024 session. The session ended without the legislature approving the measure.

Maine lawmakers introduced the Maine Right to Personal Reproductive Autonomy Amendment in the 2023–2024 legislative session to enshrine a state constitutional right to an abortion. In April, it failed to receive the necessary two-thirds majority vote in the Maine House, so it will not appear on Maine’s 2024 ballots.

Democratic legislators in Minnesota are weighing whether to attempt to put a legislatively driven constitutional amendment to protect abortion on the ballot in 2026. But efforts this year to expand the state’s Equal Rights Amendment to include protections for reproductive care failed. That amendment will not be on the 2024 ballot. Abortion is currently legal in Minnesota, and the goal of either amendment would be to add an additional layer of abortion-rights protections.

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The process to place a proposed constitutional amendment on the ballot is a rocky and expensive one, making it difficult to predict how many states will have abortion-related measures on the ballot in 2024. But because access to abortion varies significantly across the country, state constitutional amendments protecting the right to reproductive care, if approved, would not only bring a level of permanence to abortion rights in those states, but also help clarify the availability of abortion access nationwide.

The political implications also go beyond abortion. Both parties hope proposed abortion amendments will increase turnout for their respective bases, boosting chances of prevailing not only in the presidential election, but in elections up and down the ballot.

Erin Geiger Smith is a writer and editor at the Brennan Center for Justice.

 

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