US Midterms: Abortion Opponents Lose Referendums

Americans consolidated the right to abortion in three member states through referendums on Tuesday. Colorado has lived up to its “Wild West” reputation by legalizing the mushroom hallucinogen.

After Kansas, supporters of abortion rights in Michigan are also rejoicing at the polls.

Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters

The midterms saw the election of 435 MPs and 35 senators – but that was far from the only referendum this Tuesday. The US is also known for state substantive votes, and this year there were more than 130 on the national ballot. In addition, hundreds of local referendums were held in cities and towns.

Abortion in four states on ballots

Overall, the votes reflected the country’s divisions, with voters voting on some diametrically opposed laws on abortion, gun ownership and the election process itself.

The most controversial topic was abortion. With the Supreme Court recently revising national laws on the matter, it is now up to states to ban or allow abortion. Three states (Michigan, Vermont and California) enshrined abortion rights in their state constitutions on Tuesday, giving women access to treatment and medication, even as Congress is expected to one day pass a federal abortion law.

On the other hand, in staunchly conservative Kentucky, voters were asked to vote on a constitutional amendment that would explicitly deny the right to abortion. The procedure had already been banned in the southern state since the Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade revised it – but the initiators of the vote wanted to declare that abortions are not allowed under any circumstances: not even when the woman’s life is in danger; as the law currently stands.

This was too radical for voters: they narrowly rejected the bill 51 to 49 percent. In Kansas, also a Republican-controlled state, citizens surprisingly rejected a comparable bill in August, leaving women’s suffrage advocates hoping for a surprise in Kentucky — rightly so, as it turns out.

California repeals all abortion requirements

Liberalization has recently gone extremely far in California: in the future, women there will be able to have an abortion without giving a reason until just before giving birth, regardless of whether their health is at risk or whether the fetus is already viable. Voters passed the corresponding proposal with a clear majority of 66 to 34 percent. According to the existing jurisprudence, abortions in advanced pregnancy were allowed only in case of danger to the mother’s life.

Also notable was the vote in Michigan, which previously allowed abortions until the fetus could survive outside the womb, around 24 weeks of pregnancy. On Tuesday, voters overwhelmingly approved an amendment to their state’s constitution that establishes the right to free choice in reproduction and specifically mentions pregnancy and contraception.

The state in the Midwest is one of the most important swing states, in 2016 citizens voted for Donald Trump, in 2020 for Joe Biden. Here, election results are considered the main indicator of the political mood in the country.

As is often the case in the United States, supporters and opponents of the bill spent millions of dollars — more than $57 million, more than the races for governor, attorney general and secretary of state combined. Michigan is now one of the few remaining states in the Midwest, along with Minnesota and Illinois, where abortion is legal — and will likely become a destination for countless women from neighboring states as well.

Besides abortion, the biggest contentious issue in the American Kulturkampf is the right to own guns. The rural state of Iowa enshrined the corresponding law in its constitution on Tuesday with an overwhelming two-thirds majority.

In the Pacific state of Oregon, on the other hand, there are signs of a defeat for gun lovers: A referendum that would bind the purchase of guns to stricter conditions and that would ban the sale of magazines with more than ten rounds could be passed.

On the eve of the election, a campaign worker for Democratic candidate Lucy Rubio.

Lucas Boland / Imago

Colorado legalizes mushroom hallucinogen

As is often the case, the legalization of drugs, especially cannabis, was on the ballot in several states. Corresponding bills failed in the three conservative states of Arkansas, North Dakota, and South Dakota, but passed in Maryland and Missouri. This means that possession of cannabis is now legal in 21 states and the capital city of Washington.

Colorado, which could become the second member state to legalize the hallucinogen psilocybin, also caused a stir. While psilocybin is already approved for therapeutic use in Oregon, Colorado would go one step further and allow anyone to use psilocybin in specialized centers and under supervision. However, both cannabis and psilocybin are considered illegal substances under US federal law; you may not take them with you to the airport, for example.

Leave a Comment