Kansas voters will decide Tuesday on a constitutional amendment that will determine the future of abortion rights in their state – the first time in the US that voters will vote on abortion since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last year month.
A ballot question, known as the “Both Amendment,” asks voters to decide whether the state Constitution should continue to protect abortion rights. The proposed amendment under the state Constitution would strip language guaranteeing reproductive rights and asking voters whether they prefer to put the issue of abortion in the hands of the Republican-controlled state legislature — an outcome that abortion advocates say is is certain to result in the elimination or limitation of these rights.
A yes vote on the measure would remove the right to abortion from the state Constitution and return the issue to the state legislature. A no vote on the measure would make no change, keeping abortion rights enshrined in the state Constitution.
Anti-abortion activists argue that the question on the Kansas ballot creates an opportunity to put the issue in the hands of voters through elected state legislators. Abortion rights advocates warn that passage of the ballot measure would almost certainly have the effect of eliminating or curtailing existing rights in a state that has more lenient laws on its books than many of its neighbors.
“In overturning federal abortion rights, Kansas lawmakers are saying, ‘We need to change our state Constitution so that it no longer protects abortion rights so we can go ahead and ban or restrict abortion now that we legally allowed”. Elizabeth Nash, a government policy analyst at the Guttmacher Institute, a research and policy organization that promotes reproductive rights, said in a recent interview. “If the Kansas Constitution is no longer deemed to expressly protect abortion rights, the abortion ban will circulate through the legislature.”
The ballot question had been planned for more than a year, but took on greater significance in the weeks since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June, ending the federal constitutional right to abortion.
Early voting in the state began in mid-July, and the Kansas Secretary of State’s office said that, as of last Tuesday — more than twice as more people had already voted early than at the same point during the last midterm primary in 2018.
Tuesday’s vote on the measure is expected to be close.
Although the polls were sparse, the Kansas City-based company was found plus/outperform in July overview that 47% of respondents said they planned to vote “yes” on the question of removing the right to abortion from the Constitution and letting the legislature decide on abortion rights, while 43% said they planned to vote ” no”. 10% were undecided. Groups on both sides of the issue have flooded the Kansas airwaves with millions of dollars in advertising.
The measure seeks to replace a 2019 ruling by the Kansas Supreme Court that said the state Constitution guarantees the right to an abortion. Doing so would allow the state legislature to pass laws restricting or banning abortions.
Abortion rights advocates have argued that there are several factors working against them, including the wording of the ballot question and the timing of its placement.
First, they have expressed concern about the features of the ballot Language they argue it is deliberately designed to confuse voters. For example, the language used on the ballot says that a “yes” vote on the question would affirm that “the Kansas state constitution does not require state funding for abortion” — even though there is no such requirement — “and not create or to ensure the right to abortion”. A “yes” vote would confirm that “the people, through their elected state representatives and state senators, can pass laws regarding abortion,” which lawmakers are now limited to doing under the 2019 court ruling.
Abortion rights advocates support a “no” vote on the measures, which makes no change to the status quo.
Abortion rights advocates have also expressed concern that putting the issue to voters during primaries instead of the general election will significantly reduce the turnout of voters who are more likely to support reproductive rights — though early voting numbers of Secretary of State suggest that may not be the case.
In addition, they also noted that unaffiliated voters in the state — who are not allowed to vote in primaries for the two major political parties — may not realize they can still vote on the ballot question.
“Everything about how this effort was created was done in a way that obscured that end goal,” Ashley Ohl, a spokeswoman for Kansas for Constitutional Freedom, an abortion-rights group that helps lead efforts against the amendment. . he told NBC News in a recent interview.
Abortion rights advocates have argued that with Roe out, the stakes are too high to put the issue in the hands of state GOP lawmakers. They point to several recently proposed bills that would restrict or ban abortion — including one was introduced in March — which they say will almost certainly be reintroduced in the upcoming sessions of the state legislature if the Kansas ballot initiative is successful.
Opponents of abortion, on the other hand, argue that it is more democratic to have the voters, through their representatives, decide the issue. Many reject the suggestion that they are seeking more restrictive abortion laws.
“It’s not an abortion ban,” Tory Republican state Rep. Marie Arnberger, a supporter of the initiative that helped get it on the August ballot, told NBC News in a recent interview. “I’m a fan of each state having its own abortion regulations. With the overturning of Roe v. Wade, that’s now every state’s right, and I think it’s up to each legislature to decide what’s best for their state,” he added.
Abortion in Kansas is legal until about the 22nd week of pregnancy, according to the Guttmacher Institute. Under state law, women seeking abortion care are subject to several regulations, including a 24-hour waiting period between seeking counseling and receiving the procedure and parental consent for minors.
However, the rules are much less restrictive than those in neighboring states. In Missouri and Oklahoma, the laws went into effect almost immediately after the Supreme Court ruled in late June that effectively banned nearly all abortion care in those states.
At least 22 states have already banned or will soon ban abortion. The new landscape makes Kansas a regional outlier and a safe haven for in-state and out-of-state women seeking abortion care — but that could shrink or disappear if the measure passes.