On August 2, Kansas voters whether to amend the state constitution to say it does not include a right to abortion. Nearly 60 percent voted against the measure, affirming that a majority of Kansans support abortion access.
The measure was part of a primary ballot, which are closed in Kansas. Registered Republicans far outnumber Democrats in Kansas, and primaries are typically not well-attended. The Kansas secretary of state’s office was predicting around 36 percent turnout, but the state ended up having an unprecedented primary turnout of about 50 percent. According to theNew York Times, there were a total of 908,745 votes. This is higher than the primary turnout in 2020, in the midst of a presidential election cycle. It is higher, even, than the 2014 general election turnout.
“The vote,” according to NPR, “preserves access to abortion in Kansas and serves as a rebuke to the regional trend of states significantly restricting access.” Abortion is currently legal 22 weeks into pregnancy, making Kansas a haven as neighboring states set the most restrictive laws in the country.
The resounding 18-point margin came as a surprise in a state that carried a 15-point margin for Trump in the 2020 election. Rachel Sweet, who led the campaign for the bill’s defeat, said the victory was won through a bipartisan appeal. This was the first of six abortion-related initiatives on the ballot this year. The other states voting on the issue are California, Kentucky, Michigan, Montana, and Vermont.
About $6 million was spent on advertising for each side of the issue. The Roman Catholic Church was responsible for nearly two-thirds of funds supporting the restrictive measure, with one of the largest donations being $2.45 million from the Roman Catholic Archdiocese in Kansas City, Kansas. Church advocacy is allowed in Kansas for nonpartisan ballot measures. Value Them Both was the largest contributor in favor of the amendment, raising $4.69 million.
On the other side of the ledger, Kansans for Constitutional Freedom — where Rachel Sweet is the campaign manager — contributed largely to the huge turnout in a deep-red state. It received many of their donations from groups and individuals who prioritize access to healthcare, raising $6.54 million. Among the largest donors were Sixteen Thirty Fund, Planned Parenthood Action Fund, and Planned Parenthood Great Plains.
Governor Laura Kelly won the Democratic primary with 94 percent of the votes and will face Republican challenger Derek Schmidt, the state’s attorney general, in November. In a press release following the Dobbs decision, Schmidt expressed his opposition to abortion access.
Election analysis by The New York Times observed: “The rejection of the amendment has as much to do with lukewarm support in the reddest counties as it does with strong opposition in the bluest ones.” With unexpectedly high voter turnout, Kansans made clear their affirmation of abortion rights.
At post-Roe rallies across the country, speakers voiced concern not just for bodily autonomy but for the systems that control it. Confidence in the U.S. democratic system — and Democrats, in particular — is chipping. “If you care about abortion rights,” said congressional candidate Summer Lee (D-PA), “it’s time you stop saying, ‘Vote blue no matter who.’”
As rights disappear,the climate crisis implodes, and prices, shootings, and student debt rise, many young people are wondering: Does my vote matter? According to a recent poll, 42 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds said no. The data, collected by Harvard’s Institute of Politics, found that 56 percent of respondents feel the political landscape is not able to handle the nation’s challenges.
In a survey from The New York Times and Siena College, young people represented the largest demographic that said they would not vote for either Biden or Trump in a 2024 rematch. Only one third said they are determined to vote this November.
They may be frustrated with the government, but young Americans are not quite ready to throw the towel in. At 36 percent, the youth turnout in the 2018 midterms was the largest in U.S. history — a 79 percent jump from the preceding 2014 election. Following the Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe, voting interest among young women rose from 54 to 60 percent compared to the year before.
“Young people like myself have been propelled into activism and political engagement by a number of issues,” wrote Priya Elngovan. She is the director of research at All In Together, a nonpartisan civic engagement nonprofit. “We’ve been mobilized by the climate crisis, the new labor movement and racial injustice in the wake of the murder of George Floyd. Since 2020, we’ve protested, organized, donated, voted and put our energy towards the candidates who promised to take action on the issues we care about most.” Young people want change — they just aren’t convinced that voting is an effective way of going about it. If Democrats want to capitalize on the youth vote, which typically leans left, they need to restore young Americans’ faith in the democratic system. With a recently revived climate and tax deal on the table, Democrats may have a new win for voters to rally behind.
FMF President Ellie Smeal sees reproductive rights, climate change, and gun violence as some of the major voting issues for November. “Young voters were a decisive factor for the Democratic victories in the 2018 midterms, as well as the elections of Barack Obama and then President Biden,” she said. “I’m convinced they will be a decisive factor in the 2022 election.”
Abortion access is in crisis in nearly every state, regardless of its laws. States with abortion bans are forcing women to travel out-of-state or else carry an unwanted pregnancy to term. States affirming abortion care are absorbing unprecedented numbers of patients. As clinic wait times grow, telehealth medical abortions are an integral pillar of reproductive health care access.
Since June, two new telemed services — Telefem and Abortion Telemedicine — have been introduced for U.S. patients. They join platforms like Abortion on Demand, carafem, Hey Jane, and Choix to facilitate safe, at-home abortions.
Serving 18 states, Abortion Telemedicine provides patients with pills between two to four days after they go on the website. Prescriptions are made up to 13 weeks gestation, three weeks later than most providers’ cut-offs.
Pregnant people who do not live in Abortion Telemedicine states can pick up their prescription to an out-of-state post office. Both in- and out-of-state deliveries are included in the $145 cost.
As U.S. laws become increasing hostile to abortion access, Mexico’s have become more expansive. They decriminalized the procedure in 2021 and a few providers have begun offering telehealth abortions.
This week, Telefem began offering its telehealth abortion services to patients outside Mexico. It joins Aid Access as an international telemed abortion provider. Pregnant people can order their pills from home and pick them up from border sites in Mexico. While it is not required, Telefem recommends patients take the first dose of pills in Mexico, in case they are questioned about the prescription as they cross the border.
The service costs $150 and patients can schedule appointments immediately. The abortion is often complete within a week of the first consultation. Read the Ms. interview with Telefem midwife Paula Rita Rivera here.
The House passed legislation to codify abortion access on July 15. The Women’s Health Protection Act prohibits pre-viability and telehealth abortion bans.
Henry Cueller (D-CA) was the only Representative to break party lines in the 219-210 vote. Liz Cheney (R-WY) and Anthony Gonzalez (R-OH) abstained. The House and Senate sponsors are Judy Chu (D-CA) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), respectively.
The House passed the Ensuring Access to Abortion Act on the same day, imposing interstate travel protections. Brain Fitzpatrick (R-PA), Adam Kinzinger (R-IL), and Fred Upton (R-MI) joined the full slate of Democrats in the 223-205 vote. Cheney and Gonzalez again abstained, in addition to Nancy Mace (R-SC).
In a statement, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre wrote, “These bills would ensure women’s access to essential health care services, regardless of where they live, and protect the bedrock right to cross state lines for medical care. A majority of Americans across the country support them.”
On Thursday, the House passed the Right to Contraception Act by a 228-195 margin. It establishes the right to birth control access and drew just 8 Republican votes.
Liz Cheney (R-WY), Brain Fitzpatrick (R-PA), Anthony Gonzalez (R-OH), John Katko (R-NY), Adam Kinzinger (R-IL), Nancy Mace (R-SC), Maria Salazar (R-FL) and Fred Upton (R-MI) represented the 8 yea votes from Republicans. An additional 8 of their colleagues abstained from the vote: Tim Burchett (R-TN), Rodney Davis (R-IL), Michael McCaul (R-TX), David McKinely (R-WV), Carol Miller (R-WV), and Greg Steube (R-FL).
The United Nations recognizes contraception as a universal human right. The World Health Organization includes the birth control pill, intrauterine devices (IUDs), injectable hormonal contraceptives, barrier methods, and emergency contraception on their Model List of Essential Medicines.
“We have already seen state governments attempt to restrict contraceptive methods and obstruct people’s private health care choices,” said Representative Kathy Manning (D-NC), who is sponsoring the bill. “Contraception is key to achieving gender equality, improving health outcomes for women and their families, bolstering educational and economic opportunity for all, and ensuring people are in control of their own bodies and futures.” Manning was joined by Nikema Williams (D-GA), Sara Jacobs (D-CA), and Angie Craig (D-MN) in introducing the legislation.
Political analyst Ed Kilgore expects the bill to fail in the Senate.
This November, voters will decide on reproductive access amendments in six states—the highest number ever for abortion-related ballot initiatives. Three restrict access, while the other three are the first proposals supported by pro-choice organizers since 1992. Restrive abortion amendments have been regularly circulated since 1982. Here are the 2022 ballot measures:
Initiatives on the 2022 Ballot
California Residents can vote to establish a constitutional right to reproductive freedom, including abortion access and contraception decisions. The vote in state legislatures was split across party lines, but it went through with California’s substantial Democratic majority.
Kansas A “yes” vote agrees that Kansas’s constitution does not establish a right to abortion nor require the state government to fund them. It also allows the legislature to pass abortion-related laws.
Residents had to be registered to vote by July 12 to vote on the initiative. A 2021 poll found that 61 percent of residents agree that “women are in a better position than politicians” to make their abortion decisions, but it did not ask about the proposed amendment.
Michigan Michiganders will decide if a right to reproductive freedom should be guaranteed. The constitutional amendment would prohibit abortion bans prior to fetal viability and in cases of maternal mortality risk. The Right to Reproductive Freedom Initiative enshrines the ability to make and act on “decisions about all matters relating to pregnancy,” including “contraception, sterilization, abortion care, miscarriage management, and infertility care.”
To get on the ballot, the initiative needed 425,059 signatures—10 percent of the votes cast in the gubernatorial election—which it surpassed by more than 300,000. The petition was submitted on July 11 and is expected to be on ballots this November.
Montana LR-131, dubbed the “Born-Alive Infant Protection Act,” establishes that all live births produce legal residents that must be given medical attention. Providers that do not treat infants born from induced labor, cesearan section, or attempted abortion would face up to $50,000 in fines and 20 years in prison.
In Ohio, no abortion procedures performed past 12-weeks gestation—more than 10 weeks before fetal viability—resulted in “failed abortions.” Montana does not publish abortion data.
Vermont Proposal 5 would guarantee a constitutional right to “personal reproductive liberty.”
Initiatives that Missed the Ballot
Arizona As was the case in Michigan, pro-choice activists in Arizona pushed for the Right to Reprdoctive Freedom Initiative to get on ballots this November. The petition amassed only half of the 356,467 signatures needed by July 7.
Florida A proposal to ban abortions following fetal cardiac activity—around 6-weeks gestation—did not get enough signatures. The petition was approved in 2019.
Maryland An initiative establishing a right to reproductive freedom, similar to those proposed in Michigan and Arizona, was approved by the House in March but did not reach a vote in the Senate.
Twenty-six days before the May 31 deadline, a separate ballot initiative was circulated to repeal House Bill 937. The legislation expands abortion access by allowing all authorized medical practitioners (like nurse practicioners and physician assistants) to perform the procedure, not just physicians. The veto referendum petition fell short of the 69,135 signatures required.
Massachusetts The proposal advocated for an amendment saying “nothing in this constitution requires the funding of abortion,” allowing state-sponsored healthcare to opt out of abortion coverage. It began circulating in 2019 but missed the signature deadline that year, ending its path to the 2022 ballot.
Nevada The initiative required parents or guardians to be notified at least 48 hours prior to their child’s abortion procedure. The petition missed the initial 2020 deadline, blocking it from inclusion on the 2022 ballot.
Oklahoma A February proposal to grant equal legal rights to “the unborn child” was passed by the Senate but did not reach a vote in the House.
A separate initiative followed the same course, proposing abortion be recognized as a “destructive act that terminates the life of an unborn human being, [and establishing that] nothing in this Constitution secures or protects a right to an abortion.”
Colorado Reproductive rights groups want two proposals on the ballot in 2024. One would allow state funding for abortions and the other would incorporate the Reproductive Health Equity Act into the constitution. The Act strengthens reproductive healthcare access and says fetal life does not qualify for personhood.
Conservative lawmakers are pushing for an abortion ban to be added as a ballot initiative in the November election. With a Democratic majority in both chambers of the state’s legislature, it is unlikely the initiative will make it to the ballot.
Iowa This would establish that the state constitution does not “secure a right to abortion or require [its] public funding.” A poll by the Des Moines Register last year estimated 31 percent of residents oppose the measure, down from 33 percent in 2020.
Nevada If the petition gets the 140,777 signatures needed by November 23, 2022, Nevadans will vote in 2024 on whether or not parental notification is required prior to a minor’s abortion procedure. A separate initiative following the same process would require parental consent for all medical procedures for minors, including abortion.
New York The New York Equal Protection Act bans discrimination, including based on “pregnancy, pregnancy outcomes, and reproductive healthcare and autonomy.” The bill passed in the state legislature at the beginning of the month and will be on the ballot in 2023.
South Dakota A petition proposal approved in June would amend the constitution to legalize abortion without exception until the third trimester, when it would still be allowed if the pregnant person’s health is at risk. It would be on the November 2024 ballot if it meets the 33,921 signature minimum.
The American Medical Association has been trying to give abortion providers medical, moral, and legal direction since Roe v. Wade was overturned. “At this point,” AMA president Jack Resneck told the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Tuesday, “we have more questions than answers.”
Rep. Dianne DeGette (D-CO) chaired the hearing, which heard testimony from three physicians, two abortion advocates, and a law professor.
“Abortion belongs in the hands of people who have them … not in the hands of politicians who had to gerrymander their districts beyond recognition and suppress our votes to remain in power,” Renee Bracey Sherman said. Now the CEO of We Testify, which strengthens abortion storytelling visibility, Bracey Sherman told committee members about the abortion she had at 19.
Minority witness Christina Francis, CEO-elect of the American Association of Prolife Obstetricians and Gynecologists, said abortions do not qualify as “actual healthcare.” The AMA president disagreed.
“The foundation of the patient-physician relationship relies upon honest, open communication and trust, which is undermined by substituting lawmakers’ views for a physician’s expert medical judgment,” Resneck told the subcommittee. Legislation that bars doctors from providing necessary, he continued, is a breach of the most basic aspects of medicine.
Two main points were emphasized in Resneck’s testimony. The first was that abortion is a private decision that should be made between a pregnant person and their physician. The second was that abortion bans eliminate safe abortions, not all abortions; barriers to reproductive healthcare will cost lives.
When asked by Rep. Billy Long (R-MO) how she defines a successful abortion, Francis pointed toward “failed abortions.” She wanted pregnant mothers to know that if they had an abortion “their child [may be] born alive.” The phrase “born alive” is not a medical term; it was introduced by lawmakers seeking to politicize abortion. Less than one percent of abortions are performed after the 23-week viability line, according to the CDC. They do not publish data on abortions resulting in live births, indicating occurrence is statistically insignificant.
“A successful abortion is when someone is no longer pregnant because they don’t want to be,” Bracey Sherman countered. The AMA has been fielding physicians’ questions about the care they are able to provide amidst changing and ambiguous laws. The organization nodded to the Department of Health’s clarification “that EMTALA would preempt conflicting state law and be a defense for criminal prosecutions,” under the direction of Biden’s executive order two weeks ago. Yet Resneck maintained that many uncertainties remain.
Lawmakers in Arkansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Dakota, and Texas are considering legislation to ban residents from seeking or helping to provide out-of-state abortions.
Fourteen governors have preemptively prohibited government agencies and employees from cooperating with other states’ abortion investigation cases. This includes providing time, money, information, or other resources to states banning people from receiving or helping someone get an abortion across state lines. Governor Jay Inslee (D-WA) goes the extra mile, requiring the Washington State Patrol to regularly update the governor on investigation requests they receive from other states. The states that have instituted travel protections are California, Colorado, Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, North Carolina, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Washington.
President Joe Biden anticipates states will arrest pregnant people attempting to cross state lines to get an abortion. Some clinics operating in states without explicit interstate protections have limited the services available to out-of-state patients. Planned Parenthoods in Montana, for example, will only provide abortion pills for state residents.
“May a State bar a resident of that State from traveling to another State to obtain an abortion?” Justice Kavanaugh asked in his Dobbs concurrence. “In my view, the answer is no based on the constitutional right to interstate travel.” The majority opinion did not mention anything about interstate travel or provide any baseline provisions for abortion access.
“Interstate restrictions will also soon be in the offing,” the dissenting Justices—Sotomayor, Kagan, and Breyer—wrote in their opinion. “Some [states] may criminalize efforts, including the provision of information or funding, to help women gain access to other States’ abortion services.” Beyond the immediate impact of these restrictions on pregnant people, the three Justices are wary of what this means for concurrent rights. “The Constitution protects travel and speech and interstate commerce, so [the Dobbs] ruling will give rise to a host of new constitutional questions.”
“The only way to secure a woman’s right to choose is for Congress to restore the protections of Roe as federal law,” a statement from the White House said today. “Until then, he has committed to doing everything in his power to defend reproductive rights and protect access to safe and legal abortion.” President Biden announced an Executive Order Protecting Access to Reproductive Health Care Services on Friday. Safety and privacy measures for patients, providers, and clinics are at the forefront of the directive. It also emphasizes the provision of accurate healthcare information.
To expand abortion access, the order attempts to make medication abortions “as widely accessible as possible,” but what that means at a state-by-state level remains ambiguous. Immediately following the Dobbs decision, Attorney General Merrick Garland said states cannot justify medication abortion bans by questioning Mifepristone’s “safety and efficacy.” Yet the nine states that have banned abortions are not discriminating by procedure—all abortion methods are off the table, including medical ones. Nineteen states prohibit clinicians from prescribing abortion pills via telehealth, restricting online providers to states that clearly allow access.
Exceptions to new bans often allow abortions when it will save the life of the pregnant person.
“‘How imminent must death be?’” asked Lisa Harris, a Michigan abortion provider, in an interview with NPR. “‘There are many conditions that people have that when they become pregnant, they’re OK in early pregnancy, but as pregnancy progresses, it puts enormous stress on all of the body’s organ systems.’ … Does the language in these laws allow for abortion early in pregnancy if a life-threatening complication could arise later?”
The executive order tasks the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) to tighten descriptions of medical emergencies, providing additional guidance for physician decision-making in concurrence with the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA).
Though the Affordable Care Act (ACA) ensures complete coverage for birth control, House Committee on Oversight and Reform Chairwoman Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY) launched an informal investigation into reports of pharmaceutical providers violating this standard. Nine companies were sent letters inquiring about their compliance with the ACA in late May. Friday’s executive order said the federal Medicaid agency is approaching “every legally available step to ensure patient access to family planning care and to protect family planning providers.”
Biden’s directive also aims to expand reproductive education—including abortion information—and assemble lawyers willing to work pro bono to represent patients, providers, and clinics facing abortion restrictions and their repercussions. To streamline coordination, the Biden administration introduced an Interagency Task Force that bands HHS with the Attorney General and White House Gender Policy Council.
The legal landscape of privacy protections for abortion care remains unclear. Biden requested the Federal Trade Commission “consider” fortifying privacy safeguards for people seeking information about pregnancy and other reproductive healthcare options. Adjustments to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) could reaffirm that clinicians are not required—or permitted, in many cases—to provide patient information to law enforcement. HHS will also update its user guide for personal data protection on mobile apps.
Crisis pregnancy centers, which distribute anti-abortion and faith-based information, can be easily confused with abortion clinics. Yet without certification as legitimate healthcare facilities, they are not held to federal privacy standards. People who come to centers expecting to speak to a physician or receive free resources are often subject to a counseling session. Any information shared may be distributed.
“Next week, we will again pass the Women’s Health Protection Act: landmark legislation enshrining the protections of Roe v. Wade into federal law,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-NY) said of her Democratic colleagues. “We will also pass legislation addressing the GOP’s disturbing threats to restrict Americans’ freedom to travel — reaffirming the constitutional right to seek care freely and voluntarily throughout the country.”
Title IX, an appendage of the 1972 Education Amendments, is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. The law, which prohibits sex-based discrimination in federally funded educational programs and institutions, has been pivotal for gender equity progress. The National Coalition for Women and Girls in Education (NCWGE) published a report this month detailing the successes and future applications of Title IX.
Prior to the amendment, women were grossly underrepresented in undergraduate and postsecondary education degrees. In 1971, they represented around 8.6 and 9.2 percent of law and medical school graduates, respectively. The percentages have grown to 52.5 and 55.5, thanks in large part to Title IX initiatives.
One theme consistent throughout the report was that Title VII—which protects employees from sex-based discrimination—is more regularly enforced than Title IX. In their 2020 Bostock v. Clayton County decision, the Supreme Court ruled that employees must be treated fairly regardless of their sexuality or gender identity. The NCWGE recommends that the scope of this decision expands to all federally funded agencies, especially with attacks against LGBTQI+ students on the rise. “Student plaintiffs,” the report says, “face far more stringent standards under Title IX than employee plaintiffs do under Title VII.”
When Dr. Bernice Sandler was denied a full-time faculty position because she had “come on too strong for a woman” in 1969, she hit back. Under Executive Order 11246—recently amended to include sex as an unjustifiable reason for discrimination—Sandler filed 250 sex discrimination suits against academic institutions. The National Organization for Women filed 100 more. Congress passed Title IX three years later, a law co-authored by Representative Patsy Mink (D-Hawaii) and Senator Birch Bayh (D-Ind.).
Among its many policy recommendations, the NCWGE emphasizes the intersectionality of discrimination. Multiple laws—including Title VI, Title IX, and sections of the ADA—can be applied to maintain inclusivity and equity within educational spaces.
“Remind all stakeholders that preventing and remedying discrimination is a compelling government interest,” the NCWGE suggested to the Department of Education. “Any exceptions, including religious exemptions, must be narrowly construed so that federal funding is not used to subsidize discrimination, including against LGBTQI+ individuals.”
At his last game as the Bremerton High assistant football coach, Joseph Kennedy led a prayer at the 50-yard line that had spectators jumping over the fence to join him on the field. This was after the school district told him to stop holding public prayers and right before they fired him. Kennedy sued, arguing that the school district violated his First Amendment rights. In its 6-3 decision on June 27, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed.
“The core question in Mr. Kennedy’s case, [his lawyers] said, was whether government employees give up their own rights to free speech and the free exercise of religion at the workplace,” the New York Times reported. In her dissenting opinion, Justice Sotomayor said those employees do—Kennedy chose to work at Bremerton; the student athletes were required to attend.
If Kennedy wanted to continue to pray after games, the Bremerton School District told him, he was welcome to do so in a private space removed from players and the public. The tradition began in 2008, when Kennedy knelt silently in prayer following games. Students and opposing teams began to join him, and he was leading group prayers up to his termination in 2015.
In its majority opinion, delivered by Justice Gorsuch, the Court notes that there is no record of students experiencing coercion to participate in Kennedy’s prayer. This justification ignored Court precedent, according to the dissenters. Part of that precedent was decided in Lee v. Weisman, which acknowledged the implicit influence and impact of school messaging for young students. Another was a 2000 decision in which the Court deemed student-led prayer at high school football games unconstitutional.
“Tellingly,” Sotomayor wrote in her dissent, “none of this Court’s major cases involving school prayer concerned school practices that required students to do any more than listen silently to prayers, and some did not even formally require students to listen.” The Court’s three-Justice liberal block see the Kennedy v. Bremerton School District ruling as an overextension of individual religious liberty. “Today, the Court once again weakens the backstop. It elevates one individual’s interest in personal religious exercise,” Sotomayor wrote, “over society’s interest in protecting the separation between church and state.”