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REFILE-U.S. voters split over abortion access in election votes

(Fixes typo in lead)

NEW YORK, Nov 4 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Voters in the U.S. south and west weighed in with opposing views on women’s reproductive rights in the election, approving an anti-abortion amendment in one state but blocking a ban in another, underscoring the divisive nature of the issue.

Colorado voters defeated a move to ban abortions, except to save the mother’s life after 22 weeks of pregnancy, while Louisiana voters backed a constitutional shift to say the state does not protect the right to abortion nor to provide funding.

Nationwide, women have the constitutional right to abortion under the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v Wade decision, but the issue remains heated among conservatives, the religious right and women’s advocates.

If the Roe v Wade landmark ruling were to be challenged and overturned, states could pass their own laws to protect abortion rights and the Louisiana measure is security against that happening in that state.

“Across the country, abortion has divided states for decades,” said Elizabeth Nash, acting associate director for state policy at the Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive rights research group.

“We’ve seen states that have moved to protect abortion rights, and we’ve seen states that have looked to restrict access as much as possible, so what we saw yesterday really encapsulated that,” Nash told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

The impact of Colorado’s proposed ban, had it succeeded, would have affected women who travel there from other Western states that have restricted abortion access, she said.

Under Louisiana’s amendment, “our citizens have mandated that state judges can never use our Constitution to enshrine abortion or the taxpayer funding of abortion in Louisiana,” said Benjamin Clapper, executive director of Louisiana Right to Life, an anti-abortion group.

“We the people, through our legislators, can pass laws defending life without the intervention of judges,” Clapper said in a statement, adding: “We look forward to the day Roe v. Wade is overturned.”

Louisiana was at the center of the most recent U.S. Supreme Court decision on abortion rights in June, when the court ruled that certain state restrictions on doctors who perform the procedure were unconstitutional.

The high court struck down a Louisiana regulation that required doctors who have sometimes difficult-to-obtain formal affiliations called admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles (48 km) of their clinic.

Only three abortion clinics operate in Louisiana, a state of more than 4.6 million residents, according to lawyers in the case.

“Louisiana adopts abortion restrictions routinely pretty much every year, so seeing this kind of comprehensive effort to eliminate access to abortion is not surprising,” Nash said.

The Democratic lawmaker who introduced the Louisiana measure, state Sen. Katrina Jackson, did not provide a comment when asked by the Thomson Reuters Foundation, but her office said a statement would be issued "at our earliest convenience." (Reporting by Ellen Wulfhorst, Editing by Belinda Goldsmith. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly. Visit news.trust.org)

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