The 2022 Abortion Referenda: Responding to Pro-Life Setbacks

Now that Roe v. Wade has been overturned, states can once again legislate directly on abortion. Following the Dobbs v. Jackson decision, laws restricting or upholding abortion access triggered in several states. More legislation and legal battles across the country followed soon after.

Partisans on both sides of the abortion debate recognize that legislation can be changed and is not enough to provide a permanent resolution. Accordingly, they turned to state constitutional amendments to establish whether or not there is a right to abortion in each state’s constitution. Establishing a right to abortion in a state constitution does the same thing as the Roe decision—invalidates all laws restricting abortion and prevents future ones from coming into effect. Amendments that reject a constitutional right to abortion are more limited: they essentially tell the state supreme court that it can’t issue a Roe-like decision and find a right to abortion, but they don’t change any existing laws or prevent abortion-friendly laws from being passed.

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes