Kansas voters back abortion rights in state constitution

For the first time since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, leaving it to the states to determine abortion access, the issue appeared on a state ballot. In Kansas, CBS News projects that a proposed amendment to the state constitution that would eliminate the constitutional right to abortion was rejected.

The Kansas ballot initiative is seen as an indicator of the impact of abortion on November’s midterm elections.

Since the High Court ruling ending federal abortion rights, at least 12 states have banned abortion outright or after six weeks of pregnancy. Other states are also expected to move forward with new restrictions.

In Kansas, voters reaffirmed that abortion is constitutionally protected, leaving a 2019 ruling by the state Supreme Court in place. This decision stipulated that a person had the right to personal autonomy and applied strict control to the regulation of abortion. The Kansas legislature would not be able to ban or enact new restrictions on abortion without a constitutional amendment.

Election 2022-Kansas-Abortion
In this photo from Thursday, July 14, 2022, a sign in a yard in Merriam, Kansas, urges voters to oppose a proposed amendment to the Kansas Constitution to allow lawmakers to further restrict or ban the abortion. Opponents of the measure believe it will lead to an abortion ban in Kansas.

John Hanna/AP

“Kansans stood up for basic rights today. We rejected legislation that divides our economic future and jeopardizes women’s access to health care,” tweeted Kansas Democratic Governor Laura Kelly. “Together, we will continue to make incredible progress to make KS the best state in the country to live freely and do business.”

President Biden released a statement saying in part that “This vote clearly shows what we know: the majority of Americans agree that women should have access to abortion and should have the right to make their own care decisions. Congress should listen to the will of the American people and restore Roe’s protections as federal law.”

The “Value Them Both” amendment made it to the Aug. 2 primary ballot after passing the Republican-controlled state legislature with two-thirds of the vote in both houses in 2021.

“Although the outcome is not what we hoped for, our movement and campaign has proven our determination and commitment. We will not abandon women and babies,” said the Value Them Both Coalition, which supported the amendment, in a press release. The group later called the result a “temporary setback”.

While passing the amendment wouldn’t have directly outlawed abortion in the state, legal experts said it would have paved the way for the state legislature, where Republicans hold a super majority. , to prohibit abortion.

“According to the wording of the amendment, it would be possible to adopt a total ban on abortion from the point of conception until birth, without exception for rape, incest or the life or health of the mother. “, said Richard Levy, professor. of law at the University of Kansas.

Ahead of the primary, groups for and against the amendment engaged in an aggressive campaign to reach voters, knocking on doors, doing phone banking and organizing rallies. Nearly $13 million was spent on ads in the state on the abortion issue before the vote, according to AdImpact.

“This historic victory is the result of an outpouring of grassroots support and a broad coalition of reasonable and thoughtful Kansans across the state who have put health care above politics,” said Emily Wales, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Great Plains Votes, of the amendment. defeat. “We have seen the devastation caused by a loss of access to abortion in neighboring states and tonight Kansans saw through the deception of anti-abortion interests to ensure that people in their state retain their rights. .”

Despite being an off-year primary, where voter turnout is typically very low — in the last election, less than a third of voters turned out at the polls — early voting in Kansas jumped before the August 2 primary, suggesting that voters were highly motivated by the issue of abortion.

Unofficial results Tuesday night from the office of the Kansas secretary of state showed that more than 781,500 people voted on the amendment in the state. With 90% of the votes counted Tuesday at 11:45 p.m., the “No” is ahead with 60.4% of the “Yes” with 39.6%

Overall, party officials and politicians are watching closely how the overthrow of Roe v. Wade could galvanize voters ahead of the midterm elections. According to CBS News Battleground Tracking, abortion is as big an issue as the economy and inflation for women under 50. More than two-thirds of women under 50 describe the Republican Party as “extreme”. But Democrats seem disappointed with their party’s handling of the abortion issue. Fifty-nine percent said their party isn’t doing enough to protect access, while the majority of Republicans believe their party is taking the right approach to abortion.

Kansas is the first of a handful of states in which voters will have a say in midterm abortion rights. Measures similar to the Kansas effort are on the ballots in Kentucky and Montana, while initiatives adding abortion protections to state constitutions are on the ballots in California and Vermont. Efforts to amend the constitution to protect Michigan’s abortion rights are also underway.

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