This election season, our rights are on the line across the United States. These midterm elections are about freedom. Abortion, environmental action, voting rights, and LGBTQIA+ rights are just some of the critical issues that are on the ballot, and it is of the utmost importance for voters to be aware of them.

There are five states that directly have abortion on the ballot: California, Kentucky, Michigan, Montana, and Vermont. California, Michigan, and Vermont have an amendment to their constitution on the ballot that seeks to provide the right to abortion for all. Kentucky, on the other hand, has an amendment on the ballot that would change the constitution to say that “it doesn’t protect the right to an abortion.” Montana’s abortion amendment puts the question of whether or not medical care should be required for “infants born alive after an abortion.” 

The amendment in California is as follows: “Proposition One is called the Constitutional Right to Reproductive Freedom. Legislative Constitutional Amendment. It amends the California Constitution to include the fundamental right to choose to have an abortion and the fundamental right to choose or refuse contraceptives.”

This allows pro-choice voters to secure their right to abortion. Some have argued that this also opens the door to anti-choice voters to completely block the safeguard that is an addition to current constitutional amendments which have been used to protect the right to choose. On the other hand, if this amendment is to pass, it would serve as a definitive, direct protection for abortion rights within the United States.

Michigan remains a state that has kept abortion legal. The amendment is entitled the Right to Reproductive Freedom Initiative. Voting yes on this amendment will support providing reproductive freedom, defined as “the right to make and effectuate decisions about matters relating to pregnancy, including but not limited to prenatal care, childbirth, postpartum care, contraception, sterilization, abortion care, miscarriage management, and infertility care.” 

Like the amendment in California, it too would support further protections for people with uteri in all their reproductive decisions. The proposal would add a definition to reproductive freedom, in addition to safeguarding the right to an abortion as long as it protects “the life or physical or mental health of the pregnant individual.” Although it still allows for some regulation of abortions after viability, it still would provide stronger protections than those that are in place at the present moment.

Vermont has Proposition Five on the ballot. Optimistically, medical professionals “are unanimous in their support” for the bill. Vermont has already passed multiple protections for abortion rights. The final step to fully pass the law guaranteeing abortion rights is “a statewide referendum,” which will be on Election Day. The amendment itself does not contain the word “abortion”—instead, it focuses on reproductive freedom. Reproductive freedom includes the “right to get pregnant” and to “have access to birth control” in addition to the right to an abortion.

The exact language in Vermont’s ballot initiative is as follows: “an individual’s right to personal reproductive autonomy is central to the liberty and dignity to determine one’s own life course and shall not be denied or infringed unless justified by a compelling State interest achieved by the least restrictive means.” Just as in California and Michigan, voting yes will provide further protections for people with uteri to guarantee their right to choose.

On the other side of the aisle, Kentucky’s amendment would “explicitly ban the right to abortion” within the state if it passes. It states: “to protect human life, nothing in this Constitution shall be constructed to secure or protect a right to abortion or require the funding of abortion.” However, in the event that it is—hopefully—rejected, it would lead the way in terms of protecting abortion in the state. In the event that it is not rejected, this amendment would be a fundamental destruction of human rights. It would strip people with uteri from being able to make decisions about their bodies. It would completely devastate the rights of many within Kentucky. They would be stripped of their autonomy. 

The Montana amendment is written to provide voters with the choice to determine whether or not doctors should be required to “provide resuscitative care to infants born at any stage of development, or face penalties.” Although the amendment does not, at first glance, reference abortion, further examination of the text includes “natural or induced labor, cesarean section, induced abortion, or another method.” Doctors could face up to 20 years in prison if the amendment passes. It is another life-threatening amendment on the ballot in the United States. 

An infant who is “born-alive” is an infant who has a heartbeat, the ability to breathe, or is able to move voluntary muscles after birth. In the “Born Alive” act, the language used to describe this is “expulsion or extraction from the mother.” Not only does this language neglect to consider non-binary and trans individuals, but it also leaves the health of the parent out of consideration. Medical personnel are thus required to prioritize the life of a child as opposed to the parent. It is a dangerous amendment that puts the lives of many in jeopardy. 

States Without Abortion Explicitly on the Ballot

Other states don’t directly have abortion on the ballot, but they do have candidates who wish to protect the right to abortion, running against candidates who wish to deprive people of the right to choose. These states include, but are not limited to, Florida, Texas, and Arizona. In these states, candidates like Charlie Crist, Beto O’Rourke, and Katie Hobbs are running as pro-choice options for voters. Crist is fighting against Florida’s Governor Desantis to allow people to keep the right to choose whether or not they will have an abortion. His other stances? Boosting teacher pay, repealing “anti-woke” laws, legalizing marijuana, and lowering insurance and housing prices. 

Beto O’Rourke is similarly fighting against abortion bans in Texas. One of his campaign promises is to repeal Texas’s abortion ban. Additionally, he has promised to attempt to “expand access to reproductive health care.” Like Crist, he states that it will be important to work across the aisle with the GOP to pass progressive pieces of legislation. He is focused on the outrage of voters and taking that rightful outrage all the way to the polls. The closer it gets to the election, the closer the race gets, with O’Rourke trailing only a few points behind Texas’ Governor Abbot. Under Governor Abbot, Texas had led the country in the most extreme and draconian abortion bans—O’Rourke instead offers a chance for Texas voters to promote the right to choose.

In Arizona, gubernatorial candidate Katie Hobbs has been endorsed by the National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL), as of August 2022. Her opponent for governor is Kari Lake, an anti-choice candidate. Hobbs is on track to “be a bold check on anti-choice legislation.” Like in Florida and Texas, voter turn-out driven by a desire to change the policies in GOP-controlled states could tip the scale away from anti-choice legislation in a post-Roe America. Hobbs is a fighter and has been for the entirety of her tenure in the offices she has held. She would likewise continue to fight for reproductive rights but faces a tight race for governor in Arizona.

Abortion is not the only major issue on the ballot. Prison labor, a form of modern slavery, is as well.  Slavery was abolished in 1865. However, modern-day slavery can be seen in United States prisons. Incarcerated individuals do not often get paid, nor are they protected by “minimum wage” laws. For those who are injured or sick, and cannot work, visitation can be lost. Certain states even put them in the literal line of fire, fighting against wildfires in the West. As of this year, Alabama, Louisiana, Oregon, Tennessee, and Vermont all have amendments on their ballots that will close up loopholes that allow for this to occur. 

It is of the utmost importance that anyone who is registered to vote makes the decision to vote for freedom. No human being should become enslaved. There is no reason for people to lose their rights in prison. They deserve to be treated as citizens; they are human beings, and they deserve to be treated as such. 

To quote social justice activist and lawyer Bryan Stevenson, “we have a choice. We can embrace our humanness, which means embracing our broken natures and the compassion that remains our best hope for healing. Or we can deny our brokenness, forswear compassion, and, as a result, deny our own humanity.”

All human beings deserve humanity, and voting is one of the avenues by which we can fight to preserve that humanity.

This applies to abortion rights and reproductive justice. This applies to the people who are shoved into prisons and denied their Constitutional rights. When we strip rights away from groups of people, we hurt ourselves. Every vote for justice and equality is a vote for one another. Every vote against these things will hurt us. All of us. 

Vote for justice. Vote for equality. Vote as if your life depends upon it. It just might.