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2024 Abortion Rights Referendums: Key States and Potential Ballot Measures

In 2024, voters in five states will decide on referendums concerning abortion rights, with potential for more states to join. Colorado, Florida, Maryland, Nevada, and South Dakota have scheduled referendums to determine whether to enshrine abortion protections. This movement follows the U.S. Supreme Court's 2022 decision that ended nationwide abortion rights, prompting a wave of state-level initiatives to place the issue directly before voters. Since the ruling, voters have consistently supported abortion rights whenever the issue appeared on the ballot.

In Arizona and Nebraska, organizers recently submitted enough signatures to include abortion-related questions in November’s election, pending validation. These two states join others where officials are currently validating signatures for such measures. Including these, there are now five states where abortion measures are being validated. Additionally, one more state is pushing to gather enough signatures by Friday to qualify for the ballot.

Since the Supreme Court’s 2022 decision, many Republican-controlled states have enacted new abortion restrictions, with 14 states banning the procedure at all stages of pregnancy. In contrast, most Democratic-led states have laws or executive orders safeguarding abortion access. In all seven states that have put abortion questions to voters since 2022—California, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Montana, Ohio, and Vermont—voters have supported abortion rights.

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2024 Ballot Measures

Colorado: In May, Colorado confirmed a measure to enshrine abortion protections in the state constitution, including mandates for Medicaid and private health insurers to cover it. Supporters gathered over 225,000 signatures, nearly double the required 124,000. Amending the state constitution requires 55% voter approval. A competing measure to ban abortion did not gather enough signatures and will not be on the ballot. Currently, abortion is legal at all stages of pregnancy in Colorado.

Florida: In April, the state Supreme Court allowed a ballot measure to legalize abortion until viability despite a challenge from the state Attorney General. Advocates collected nearly a million signatures, surpassing the 892,000 required. The measure needs 60% voter approval to take effect. Currently, abortion is illegal in Florida after six weeks of pregnancy, following a law effective May 1.

Maryland: Maryland voters will decide whether to enshrine the right to abortion in the state constitution. The state already protects abortion rights under state law, and Democrats significantly outnumber Republicans. Abortion is allowed until viability in Maryland.

Nevada: In June, Nevada confirmed a ballot question to enshrine abortion rights in the state constitution. The amendment would guarantee abortion access for the first 24 weeks of pregnancy, or later to protect the pregnant person's health, already ensured under a 1990 law. Voters need to approve the measure in both 2024 and 2026 for it to take effect.

South Dakota: This fall, South Dakota voters will decide on a measure banning restrictions on abortion in the first trimester. The measure allows regulation in the second trimester only to protect the woman's health and permits a third-trimester ban with exceptions for the woman's life and health. About 85% of the 55,000 signatures submitted were validated, exceeding the required 35,017. Opponents are attempting to remove the initiative from the ballot.

New York Ballot Measure

New York will vote on a measure to bar discrimination based on "pregnancy outcomes" and "reproductive healthcare," alongside protections for sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, and disability. Abortion is currently allowed in New York until fetal viability. Initially removed from the ballot due to a procedural error, an appeals court reinstated it in June.

Potential Ballot Measures in 2024

Arizona: Supporters submitted over 823,000 signatures for a measure to protect abortion access until fetal viability, pending signature verification. Currently, abortion is legal for the first 15 weeks of pregnancy in Arizona.

Arkansas: Proponents need nearly 91,000 signatures by Friday to place an amendment allowing abortion in many cases on the ballot. They are currently 5,800 signatures short.

Missouri: Advocates submitted more than 380,000 signatures for a measure to guarantee abortion until viability. Local officials have until July 30 to verify the signatures, after which the secretary of state will decide if there are enough. Abortion is currently banned at all stages in Missouri, with limited exceptions.

Montana: A proposed amendment would bar the government from denying the right to abortion before viability or when necessary to protect the pregnant person's life or health. Nearly twice the required signatures were submitted, pending verification. Abortion is legal until viability in Montana.

Nebraska: Competing measures include one to enshrine the right to abortion until viability and another to codify the current 12-week abortion ban. Both measures have submitted more than the required signatures for ballot access.

Failed Ballot Efforts

Some efforts to restrict or ban abortion have not gained traction. Measures failed to reach ballots in Wisconsin, Iowa, Pennsylvania, Louisiana, Maine, and Minnesota.

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