Kansas rejects weakening abortion rights on ballot initiative

Kansas voters rejected an amendment that would have weakened abortion protections in the state, a huge victory for reproductive rights advocates in the first test at the ballot box since Roe v. Wade was overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court in June.

The GOP-backed initiative, known as Amendment 2, would not ban abortions in the state, but a yes vote “would affirm that there is no Kansas constitutional right to abortion or require state funding of abortions” and opened the door for the Republican-controlled legislature to pass further restrictions. At the time the Associated Press called the race, No was winning by more than 20 points.

The initiative was an attempt to overturn a 2019 decision by the Kansas Supreme Court, which ruled 6-1 that the state constitution “allows a woman to make decisions about her body, health, family formation and her family life, including deciding whether to continue the pregnancy.”

Due in large part to that ruling, Kansas has continued to protect abortion rights despite the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in late June that access to the procedure is not protected by the U.S. constitution. Republican-controlled states bordering Kansas, such as Oklahoma and Missouri, now have near-total bans, making the state a safe haven for neighboring populations.

A billboard urging Kansans to vote reads: Trust Women.  Vote no on August 2nd.

A billboard urges Kansans to vote “no” on a proposed amendment to the state constitution that would deny a right to abortion. (Gabriella Borter/Reuters)

“This historic victory was the result of great grassroots support and a broad coalition of reasonable, thoughtful state residents who put health care above politics,” Planned Parenthood Great Plains CEO Emily Wales said in a statement . “We’ve seen the devastation caused by the loss of access to abortion in neighboring states, and tonight, Kansans saw the deception of anti-abortion interests to ensure that people in their state retain their rights. Now, more than ever, our work continues.”

The victory comes in a state that former President Donald Trump won by 15 points in 2020. It also comes after Republican lawmakers specifically placed the initiative on the primary ballot, hoping that the usual turnout — smaller and more conservative than November’s general election, with fewer unaffiliated voters participating — would help the amendment succeed. Limited polling in the race had shown a tight race, with a July survey finding 47% in favor of the amendment, 43% opposed and 10% undecided.

Polls show most Americans want abortion to be legal, and Democrats are hoping the issue will sway voters to support their candidates this November. The victory comes the same day the Justice Department announced it was suing Idaho over a restrictive abortion law that the federal government says prevents emergency room doctors from providing pregnant patients with adequate care.

In a statement following the result, President Biden said: “This vote makes clear what we know: a majority of Americans agree that women should have access to abortion and the right to make their own health care decisions. care.

“Congress should listen to the will of the American people and restore Roe’s protections as federal law,” he added. “While this is the only way to ensure a woman’s right to choose, my Government will continue to take meaningful action to protect women’s access to reproductive health care.”

Reproductive rights advocates at a primary election watch party in Overland Park, Kan.

Reproductive rights advocates at a primary election watch party in Overland Park, Kan., cheer as the proposed amendment fails Tuesday. (Dave Kaup/AFP via Getty Images)

The state’s anti-abortion advocates expressed dismay at the outcome. Value Them Both, the main organization pushing for the repeal of the protections, issued a statement calling the result a “temporary setback” caused by a “disinformation onslaught by radical left-wing organizations.” Sen. Roger Marshall, a Republican and OB/GYN, called it “a huge blow to efforts to protect the sanctity of life in Kansas.”

“Too many times I’ve seen sadness and hurt, no explanation why – this is one of those moments,” Marshall said in a series of tweets. “Although I don’t have an answer, I know that God works all things for good for those who trust in him.”

While Kansas has consistently voted Republicans for president and the U.S. Senate for decades, there have been Democrats in state office, including current Gov. Laura Kelly, a Democrat who won election in 2018 by defeating Republican Kris Kobach, the controversial former secretary of state. Kelly, who opposed the amendment, will face Republican Attorney General Derek Schmidt this fall.

A Yahoo News/YouGov poll in July found that 54% of Americans said abortion is “a constitutional right to which women in all states should have some access,” compared to 30% who said they should individual states are allowed to ban it. In a poll over the weekend, 43% of Americans said they thought Democrats would do a better job on abortion, compared to 30% who said Republicans would.

Kansas is only the first state to vote on the issue in 2022, as other abortion-related initiatives will be on the ballot this November in California, Kentucky, Montana, Vermont and possibly Michigan. Additionally, gubernatorial contests in states like Pennsylvania are likely to affect the legitimacy of the process.

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