“We have an opportunity here to build something better, and we’re not even talking about it.”
SEPTEMBER 11, 2023
Not long after Election Day last November, Pamela Merritt joined a call with other abortion-rights activists in Missouri to discuss a daring proposal: sidestepping the state’s ruling Republicans by directly asking voters whether to add abortion rights to their state constitution. The group hoped to capitalize on a recent trend. Since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June of 2022, pro-choice voters had been showing up to the polls in force, rejecting anti-abortion ballot initiatives in Kansas, Kentucky, and Montana. They went even further in California, Michigan, and Vermont, passing state constitutional amendments to guarantee, among other things, the right to choose abortion.
This unbroken string of victories has energized advocates who see ballot initiatives as a key tool in the post-Roe world, especially in states controlled by Republicans. Even in Missouri, where the anti-abortion movement was so successful that only one clinic remained by 2022, national progressive organizations smell opportunity. “Right now, every single state is dealing with a pro-abortion, riled-up base that wants a Kansas,” Merritt says, referring to the special election about abortion last year that drew greater turnout than any primary in the state’s history. “There’s pressure.