At Protect Kentucky Access, surprise and jubilation over amendment victory


Ava Blair

Several speeches were made at the event. Photo by Ava Blair

Ava Blair, Grace Fridy

Election night brought a palpable wave of anticipation to citizens throughout the Commonwealth. On Tuesday night, many gathered for watch parties or celebrations in nervous fits of excitement to see how votes on Amendment 2 would pan out after months of “Yes on 2” and “No on 2” signs and billboards that littered Louisville and the rest of the state.

Standing out among the bunch was the Protect Kentucky Access election night watch party at the Galt House. Attendees milled around, getting food from the hors-d’œuvres or drinks from the bar all while trying to watch screens tuned to MSNBC over the blaring 2000s music. Most were anxious yet hopeful as they constantly checked their phones for updates on Constitutional Amendment 2. 

“I’m thankful for all the organizing that happened to hopefully defeat this thing once and for all,” Kentucky State Representative Lisa Willner said. Willner’s gratefulness mirrored the other attendees, all of whom were hopeful that voters would check “no” on the ballot.

One of the biggest issues on the ballot this year was abortion. Citizens could vote on Amendment 2, which, if passed, would clarify that the right to an abortion would not be protected under the Constitution of Kentucky. The proposed amendment stated, “To protect human life, nothing in this Constitution shall be construed to secure or protect a right to abortion or require the funding of abortion.”

If Amendment 2 passed in Kentucky, legislators would be able to pass laws restricting abortion without violating the Constitution of Kentucky, therefore Amendment 2 would support anti-abortion laws. The Protect Kentucky Access election night watch party was sponsored by multiple organizations invested in pro-abortion rights causes including Planned Parenthood, Sister Song, Kentucky Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, EMW Women’s Surgical Center, Fairness Campaign and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Kentucky and surrounding states. 

Drinks seemed to flow faster at the watch party than the highly anticipated election results, but the crowd remained invigorated as the no vote held its lead. Though slightly deflated, this continued after Democratic Senate candidate Charles Booker’s challenge against Senator Rand Paul was called in favor of Paul. Many counties, such as Spencer, Henderson and Warren, that broke heavily in Paul’s favor trickled in and appeared to swing towards no.

The energy in the room remained high and hopeful as the night continued to progress, due to internal polling results from Protect Kentucky Access that showed No was favored. Some were comparing data and results from Kentucky to that of Kansas. In August, Kansas voters defeated an amendment banning abortion. The director of the Kansas Pro-Choice movement was the same as the Kentucky movement director.

Around 7 pm, most people remained hopeful. “We are incredibly hopeful and what our hope is, is that Kentucky shows out today, tonight and pushes back on the government overreach,” Jackie McGranahan, a policy strategist for the ACLU of Kentucky said.

Many others were feeling the same, monitoring results closely as the night progressed. Votes were slow to come in but the mood was still high as slightly tipsy attendees danced to the blaring music while reporters struggled to conduct interviews over the loud sounds.

Reverend Wayne A. Gnatuk serves as the board chair for the Kentucky Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice and is a huge believer in religious freedom. “My hope is that we are going to prevail tonight and vote for a No vote on 2 and I think we are.” 

The night went on, as more races were called and the energy in the room picked up. At half past 9, sponsors began to give speeches. Erin Smith from the Kentucky Health Justice Network encouraged the audience by saying, “We’re still here, we’re still going through this, and we’re not done yet.”

Amber Duke of the ACLU explained that they would be defending a case to the Kentucky Supreme Court starting next week that could temporarily restore access to abortions in the Commonwealth. She ended the speeches by saying, “It’s Kentucky y’all, the numbers are slow coming in.”

At 10 pm, McGranahan explained that the results were still looking to swing in favor of No. “We’re still very hopeful, very excited.”

More supporters from the Kentucky Democratic Party filed in with liveliness and hope the amendment would be defeated. The night went on and the music continued to blare while other pivotal races, such as the mayoral race, were called. Around 11 pm, attendees were told a big announcement would be coming soon.

Nearly half an hour later, Chris Hartman, Executive Director of the Fairness Campaign, called the race in favor of No. Attendees cheered, danced, and shed tears as he finally announced the call.

Rachel Sweet of Protect Kentucky Access followed by explaining that the Associated Press had not called the race yet, as they were still waiting on data from a few counties such as Bullitt, Barren, and Woodford. However, as 85% of the vote was in, things were looking hopeful as though the amendment would be blocked.

“Kentuckians have spoken out loud and clear tonight that abortion is a human right, abortion is healthcare, and they want access,” Kentucky state director of Planned Parenthood Alliance Advocates Tammara Wieder explained.

Data showed that 71% of Jefferson County and 73% of Fayette County voted No on the amendment, while 74% of Harlan County and 83% of Jackson County voted Yes. Some counties, like Bath County, were closer where 50.2% voted Yes and 49.8% voted No. 

The Associated Press officially called that Amendment 2 was defeated around 8:20 am the next morning.

From here, the fight goes to the Kentucky Supreme Court where the ACLU of Kentucky will argue on behalf of the two abortion clinics in the state that some of the strictest laws in the nation violate the State Constitution. Heather Gatnarek, the lawyer who will argue the case on Nov. 15th, joined in on the celebrations with the rest of the group.