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Kansas to become first state to allow voters to weigh in on abortion in post-Roe US

The closely watched vote offers the first public look at voter sentiment in the wake of the devastating Roe decision, which gutted the federal right to abortion and sent the issue back to the states. It could also provide a sign of voter enthusiasm for the issue, which has become a focus of the midterms, particularly among Democrats.

Voters of all political persuasions will be asked whether to amend the state constitution to remove the protected right to abortion. The procedure is currently legal up to 22 weeks in Kansas, where people from Texas, Oklahoma and Missouri have traveled for services amid Republican-led efforts to roll back abortion rights.

The text of Tuesday’s question reads: “Because Kansans value both women and children, the Kansas state constitution does not require state funding for abortions and does not create or guarantee a right to abortion. To the extent permitted by the constitution of the United States, the people, through their elected state representatives and state senators, may pass laws relating to abortion, including but not limited to laws relating to circumstances of pregnancy resulting from rape or incest or circumstances of necessity to save the life of the mother.”

A “yes” majority would have the effect of amending the state constitution to say “does not require state funding for abortions and does not create or guarantee a right to abortion.”

While such a vote would not outlaw abortion, it is up to the GOP-controlled legislature to pass laws related to the procedure, including banning abortions at all stages of pregnancy, with no exceptions for rape and incest. And removing state constitutional protections would significantly limit an individual’s ability to challenge a restrictive abortion measure.

“The amendment on the ballot would impose government control over our private medical decisions and ultimately pave the way for a complete ban on abortion,” said Ashley Ohl, who is part of the Kansans for Constitutional Freedom coalition, which opposes the amendment.

A no vote would leave the state constitution unchanged and abortions up to 22 weeks would remain legal. Lawmakers would still be able to pass restrictive abortion laws, but the state would have to meet a higher threshold to prove it has grounds to enact the law in court.

Until now, courts have recognized the right to abortion under the state constitution. Lawmakers had passed a restrictive abortion law in 2015 that would have banned the dilation and evacuation procedure, but it had been permanently blocked by the courts.

When the Kansas state Supreme Court ruled on the law in 2019, it said the right to an abortion was protected under Section 1 of the Kansas Constitution’s Bill of Rights, which states: “All men have equal and inalienable natural rights, among which are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

The court said section 1 “protects the right to personal autonomy, which includes the ability to control one’s body” and that this right “enables a woman to make her own decisions about her body, health, starting a family and her family life — decisions that may include whether to continue the pregnancy.”

The coalition behind the amendment is Value Them Both, led by Kansans for Life, the Kansas Catholic Conference and Kansas Family Voice.

“Kansans want to make sure that moms and babies are protected. So Kansans are very concerned about this push to make us an unrestricted abortion destination,” Brittany Jones, an attorney who helped write the amendment, told CNN .

Jones and Kansas Republicans have been working on the amendment for years.

The issue was placed on the primary ballot rather than the general election, which abortion rights advocates believe was intended to limit turnout. Registered Republicans outnumber Democrats in the state by more than 350,000; according in the latest figures from the Kansas Secretary of State’s office.

The constitutional amendment has already increased voter interest in the primary, according to the Kansas Secretary of State’s office.

CNN’s Nick Valencia and Devon Sayers contributed to this report.

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