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Kentuckians to weigh in on anti-abortion constitutional amendment on Election Day

Aprile Rickert

Kentuckians will decide more than who sits in the state House and Senate chambers next week.

A “yes” vote on Amendment 2 on Election Day would create explicit wording in the Kentucky’s constitution saying the right to abortion is not protected under the state’s fundamental legal document.

Advocates for the amendment contend that their opponents are using “scare tactics” to manipulate voters into believing it would outlaw abortion.

And while the measure wouldn’t ban abortion in Kentucky, state lawmakers have already passed laws outlawing the procedure in almost all instances. The amendment would ensure that courts don’t interpret a right to abortion under the state constitution, as challenges continue to make their way through the legal system.

Abortion advocates are hoping that organizers with groups like the Planned Parenthood and Protect Kentucky Access can replicate the success of their counterparts in Kansas, where voters rejected a similar amendment earlier this year in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. States that have passed similar amendments include Tennessee, Alabama, West Virginia and Louisiana.

Catie Bates Robertson is president of the west Kentucky chapter of the National Organization for Women. She says passing Amendment 2 would be a big step backwards for the state.

“This is definitely a huge overreach into women's healthcare, ultimately. It's not just as simple as limiting abortion. Unfortunately, it's way more complex of an issue,” Bates Robertson said. “The presence of it as an amendment alone is already, you know, an extreme step towards controlling that access.”

Bates Robertson also said the amendment is poorly worded and that its supporters are underplaying the effect its passage could have on abortion access.

The language voters will consider adding to the Kentucky Constitution on Election Day reads as follows:

To protect human life, nothing in this Constitution shall be construed to secure or protect a right to abortion or require the funding of abortion.

Richard Nelson is the founder of the Commonwealth Policy Center, a conservative group pushing for the amendment. He said abortion advocates are using misinformation and “scare tactics” to make Kentucky voters think the amendment passing would outlaw the procedure.

“What it does is it simply says that judges will not find a right to abortion in the Kentucky constitution and that's why, the other side, the only way they can win is by manufacturing misinformation and scaring women,” Nelson said.

Kentucky lawmakers have already passed measures banning abortions in almost all instances, including the “trigger law,” which automatically banned abortion after Roe v. Wade was overturned and a law banning abortions after the 6th week of pregnancy, earlier than many realize that they are pregnant.

Several anti-abortion Kentucky legislatorsheld a press conference last week criticizing out-of-state dollars flowing in to fight Amendment 2.

The Louisville Courier-Journal recently reported that more than $5.2 million had been raised to oppose the amendment by Protect Kentucky Access – some of which did come from people and organizations outside the commonwealth – a little more than five times the amount raised by the Yes For Life Alliance.

Neither Bates Robertson nor Nelson said they were feeling confident about how Election Day will go for their respective causes.

Bates Robertson said, no matter how it goes, she’ll continue to advocate for abortion access.

“I think that, even if you are pro-life, it's still responsible to vote no because you can still choose choose to be pro-life. You can still live your life that way, but doing it in a way that denies women access to this kind of health care … that is not equity. That is not fair for women,” she said. “However this turns out, the battle won't end. Women will keep fighting until we can have access to this healthcare.”

The vote comes as the legal status of abortion continues to waver in Kentucky with multiple court cases surrounding the procedure still being litigated.

A week after Election Day, the Kentucky Supreme Court will hear arguments over a challenge to the state’s “trigger law,” which banned abortion in all cases, except extreme situations where a pregnant person’s life is at risk, and the state’s total ban on the procedure after the sixth week of pregnancy.

Kentuckians will also weigh in on a proposed constitutional amendment to give the state legislature more power by allowing them to call themselves into session.