Last week, the right wing controlled Alito/Roberts Court gutted almost fifty years of precedent and stripped away a federally-recognized right to reproductive freedom and autonomy when it overturned Roe v. Wade in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, No. 19–1392.
It’s easily one of the worst Supreme Court decisions ever, and it will exacerbate the already alarming problem of inequity in access to reproductive healthcare.
But even in states where abortion care remains legal to obtain — like Washington — the specter of further assaults on reproductive freedom remains.
Republicans like Mike Pence want a national abortion ban and they will likely be in a position to get one if Republicans regain a trifecta at the federal level (there are very few pro-liberty Republicans left in either the House or the Senate).
Washington State has voter-approved laws on the books concerning access to reproductive care which have withstood attacks from the right wing for decades.
However, Washingtonians would unquestionably be better protected from the threat of a national abortion ban and other bad external legislation if our state Constitution were amended to explicitly protect reproductive freedom.
Anticipating that the Dobbs decision was coming, we decided at the beginning of this month to ask voters about their views on this subject.
We found 63% of likely 2022 Washington State voters interviewed June 1st-2nd, 2022 supportive of a constitutional amendment to defend reproductive freedom, with only 28% opposed. 8% said they were not sure.
Remarkably, 57% said they were strongly supportive, with another 6% somewhat supportive. A mere 21% were strongly opposed, with 7% somewhat opposed.
Here’s the complete question we asked and the responses we received:
QUESTION: Do you strongly support, somewhat support, somewhat oppose, or strongly oppose amending the Washington State Constitution to protect Washingtonians’ freedom to obtain reproductive healthcare, including abortion care?
- Support: 63%
- Strongly: 57%
- Somewhat: 6%
- Oppose: 28%
- Somewhat: 7%
- Strongly: 21%
- Not sure: 8%
Our survey of 1,039 likely 2022 Washington State voters was in the field from Wednesday, June 1st through Thursday, June 2nd, 2022.
It utilizes a blended methodology, with automated phone calls to landlines (50%) and text message answers from cell phone only respondents (50%).
The poll was conducted by Public Policy Polling for the Northwest Progressive Institute and has a margin of error of +/- 3.0% at the 95% confidence interval.
85% of respondents fell into one of the “strongly” camps, demonstrating that people have firm positions on this issue. Note that more than twice as many people are strongly supportive of the idea than strongly opposed.
This finding reinforces that Washington is a state where people truly value and cherish reproductive rights. They are part of a values system here that transcends party and even ideology. That much is evident from the crosstabs.
We found support for a proposed constitutional amendments in all regions, including Eastern and Central Washington, where there is majority support.
Nearly all Democratic voters want an amendment (88%), but so do a majority of independent voters (56%). Even Republican support for this idea is in the double digits (23%), which is significant considering how far to the right the Republican Party has shifted in recent years, with the Dan Evans wing going almost extinct.
Constitutional amendments require a two-thirds vote of both chambers of the Legislature in Washington to be referred to the people for a public vote.
It is not possible to propose a constitutional amendment by petition here like it is in other states. That is by design — the founders wanted to protect both majority rule and minority rights, so they wrote a Constitution that explicitly requires majority votes to pass bills (no more, no less) but minority consent to change the plan of government. For every state representative or senator who is opposed to a proposed change, there must be two who are for it, or it doesn’t advance.
Democrats currently have fifty-seven votes in the state House and twenty-eight votes in the Senate, out of ninety-eight and forty-nine, respectively.
Sixty-six votes are required in the House to pass an amendment, and thirty-three votes are needed in the Senate. So, to get an amendment before the people, if voters did not change the balance of power this autumn, Democrats would need nine Republican votes in the House and five in the Senate, which they probably wouldn’t get, since the pro-reproductive rights faction of the Republican Party is totally unrepresented in the House and Senate Republican caucuses.
Regardless of how the 2022 midterms turn out, this idea should be brought forth in the 2023 session for a hearing and a vote, because threats to reproductive freedom aren’t going away, and Washingtonians deserve to know from their next Legislature where their elected representatives stand.