December 1, 2023

In the first nationwide referendum on abortion rights since the US Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wadevoters in Kansas confirmed that the right to abortion is protected by the state constitution.

Kansas voters overwhelmingly rejected a proposed constitutional amendment that sought to repeal protections for abortion rights, denying the state’s anti-abortion lawmakers the ability to draft strict restrictions on reproductive health care.

Turnout soared beyond projected numbers and likely approached 50 percent, rivaling turnout for the 2008 presidential election, according to Kansas Secretary of State Scott Schwab.

The vote – and massive turnout in the state primary – underscores the deep unpopularity of the Supreme Court’s overturning decision Roe v. Wade and attempts to make abortion illegal, likely sending a resounding campaign message amid important midterm elections.

A 2019 ruling by the state Supreme Court determined that “personal autonomy” protections in the state constitution include abortion, upholding the right of Kansans to seek an abortion even if the Supreme Court strikes down abortion rights. The proposed amendment sought to expressly remove these protections.

With no federal or state constitutional protections for abortion access, the Republican-dominated state legislature was likely to pass strict anti-abortion restrictions similar to those enacted across the US in recent weeks.

“Kansas values ​​have always exemplified freedom, and tonight, Kansas continued that legacy,” Emily Wales, president of Planned Parenthood Great Plains Votes, said in a statement.

“Anti-abortion politicians put this amendment on the original ballot aimed at low voter turnout, but shut out Kansans, who have said loud and clear that they believe and trust patients to make their own medical decisions – especially in a dark moment in history when people across the Midwest and South don’t have the same freedom,” he said.

On June 24, the decision of the Supreme Court in Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health Organization June 24 marked the end of the previous half-century for abortion rights established in 1973 Roe v. Wade.

Kansas has become a haven for legal access to abortion care in the region, as neighboring states Missouri and Oklahoma ban the procedure in nearly all cases.

Abortion is legal in Kansas up to 20 weeks pregnant, although about half of the abortions performed in the state in 2021 were among people who traveled from elsewhere — mostly from neighboring Missouri.

In the weeks after Dobbs ruling, three of the four states served by Planned Parenthood Great Plains lost legal access to abortion. Before the ruling, Oklahoma lawmakers passed a series of strict anti-abortion laws, including a near-total abortion ban punishable by up to 10 years in prison. Anti-abortion laws in Missouri and Arkansas also took effect after the Supreme Court.

Kansas – like many other states with limited legal access to abortion – already has strict restrictions on abortion, including requirements that patients undergo state counseling and ultrasounds, a mandatory 24-hour waiting period, and bans on certain health insurance coverage and appointments of telemedicine for medical abortion prescriptions.

“But Kansans have seen what happens when there’s a total ban in neighboring states and the devastation it causes,” said Anamarie Rebori-Simmons, spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood Great Plains Votes. The independent.

The Supreme Court decision “really encouraged a lot of people and made it real for people in ways that they could relate to and find their way into this conversation,” said Zachary Gingrich-Gaylord, a spokesman for Trust Women, which runs a clinic. in the state, he said The independent.

“The majority of people agree that people should have access to reproductive health care, that the government should not be making decisions about it for people,” he said. “The problem is that … power in this state has become so disconnected from the people.”

The results also dealt a fatal blow to a multimillion-dollar anti-abortion campaign, including support from Catholic dioceses across the state as well as the Kansas-Nebraska Southern Baptist Convention.

False and misleading text messages sent to some voters the day before Election Day told them that “women in KS are losing their choice on reproductive rights” and that “voting YES will give women a choice. Vote YES to protect women’s health.”

The campaign is affiliated with a Republican-affiliated political action committee, according The Washington Post.

In a statement to the newspaper, the political technology company that leased the phone numbers to give the GOP-linked group said the company was made aware of “potential content infringement” and that the group “was not consulted on the messaging strategy of this message or content”.

A spokesman for Kansans for Constitutional Freedom, which opposed the amendment, called the text campaign “yet another example of the desperate and fraudulent tactics” of the anti-abortion coalition “lying to the voters of Kansas.”

In the days leading up to the election, an anti-abortion coalition ramped up false conspiracy theories about voter fraud to demand that early voting mail ballots be removed, baselessly claiming they could be tampered with.

Opponents of the amendment also criticized the timing of the election – handing out a ballot without another statewide Democratic election – and the confusing language on the ballot itself.

Ads by anti-abortion groups include emotional, inaccurate appeals. One called for an end to the “disgusting practice of late-term abortion,” even though third-trimester abortions are already banned in the state. Another anti-abortion billboard used the phrase ‘trust women’ – which is the name of the Trust Women clinic – and a third said ‘trust women’ and ‘vote no’.

Later this year, voters in California, Michigan, Nevada and Vermont will vote on similar measures to protect abortion access in their states.

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