In a stunning result, the people of Kentucky voted against an anti-abortion ballot initiative despite easily sending Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) back to the Senate and electing a wide array of other statewide Republican candidates.
Just about 53% of Kentucky voters cast their ballots against Constitutional Amendment 2, which would have codified in the state constitution that Kentucky does not protect the right to abortion or require funding for abortion care. The amendment, which was nearly identical to the one Kansas voters rejected in their state this summer, was expected to pass in a reliably Republican state that historically has opposed abortion. Kentucky is the fourth most anti-abortion state in the country, following Arkansas, Mississippi and Alabama, according to a 2014 Pew Research Center study.
Paul won against Democratic challenger Charles Booker handily, with about 62% of votes. Paul was a major supporter of the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade this summer, and he’s introduced several abortion restrictions including one that would define life begins at conception.
Of the six Kentucky U.S. House seats, Republicans won five; the only Democrat won in Kentucky’s 3rd District, which includes Louisville. Voters also voted to keep Republicans in power in both chambers of the state legislature, although the majority ran uncontested.
Tamarra Wieder, Kentucky state director for Planned Parenthood Alliance Advocates, told HuffPost she wasn’t surprised that many Republican voters crossed party lines on an issue like abortion care.
“We really thought that this issue transcended political affiliation and religious identities,” Wieder said Tuesday night. “Over 60% of our counties don’t have a practicing OB-GYN. We, in Kentucky, really struggle to get care, and abortion care is healthcare and Kentuckians see it that way.”
“They may align with political leaders for other issues, but on this one, they stand firm with abortion access,” she added.
The amendment was redundant to begin with because a trigger abortion ban went into effect weeks after the repeal of Roe this summer. The trigger law is a near-total abortion ban with narrow exceptions, including if the pregnant person’s health is at serious risk. There were only two abortion clinics in Kentucky before Roe fell. Both offer other reproductive and sexual health care services, but neither offers abortion care.
“Anti-choice extremists, take note: from Kansas to Kentucky, there is no state in the union where your policies are popular, and these results tonight prove it,” Mini Timmaraju, NARAL Pro-Choice America President, said in a statement. “Abortion is a winning issue because it impacts everybody’s lives, and when Americans are given the simple choice between more freedom or less, they will always choose more.”