June 7, 2023

Abortion rights advocates gather outside Kansas State to protest the Supreme Court’s abortion decision June 24 in Topeka, Kan.Charlie Riedel/AP

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In the first abortion vote after the Supreme Court decision was overturned in June Roe v. Wade, a majority of Kansas voters on Tuesday rejected an amendment to the state constitution that would have eliminated the right to abortion recognized by the Kansas Supreme Court. A vote on the amendment could have cleared the way for the Republican-controlled Legislature to pass laws further restricting abortion, which would likely affect not only Kansans but also millions of Americans from neighboring states.

In 2019, the Kansas Supreme Court ruled that the state’s Declaration of Rights protected the right to personal autonomy. This right, “which includes the ability to control one’s body, assert bodily integrity, and exercise self-determination,” the court ruled, “enables a woman to make her own decisions about her body, health, family formation and family life — decisions that may include whether to continue the pregnancy. Although not absolute, this right is fundamental.”

Republican lawmakers I put the amendment on the ballot after the measure is approved by the House and Senate. A simple majority vote was then necessary to enshrine it in the Kansas Constitution.

The months and weeks leading up to the referendum were characterized by door-to-door canvassing canvassmillion dollars in campaign advertisements, and a fierce message battle. Proponents of the constitutional “Claim both.” amendment I have he claimed that without its passage, Kansas would become a “permanent destination for extreme abortion procedures” and that “unrestricted abortion” would come to the state. The amendment, they said, would protect “common boundaries in the abortion industry.” Most of the financing for the campaign for the amendment came from the Archdiocese of Kansas City, which donate $2.45 million, and the Catholic Diocese of Wichita. The national anti-abortion group Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America invested $1.3 million in promote the amendment.

The reality is that abortions have already taken place is regulated in Kansas, though not nearly to the extent found in other deep red states. The state bans procedures after 22 weeks, mandates a 24-hour waiting period and biased counseling, requires parental consent for minors, and limits public funding for abortions. There have been no late-term abortions in Kansas From before the decision of the state Supreme Court. In 2021, 90 percent of abortions performed in the state occurred before the 12th week of pregnancy.

“Representatives on the other side are trying to make it about reasonable regulation, but that’s completely misleading,” said Ashley All with Kansans Advocates for Constitutional Freedom. coalition opposes the amendment, he told me the week before Election Day. “This is about opening the door to a total ban.” Tackling misinformation, he said, was a “challenging and full-time job.”

The fear that the Kansas legislature might try to enact a near-total abortion ban is not unfounded. A Republican lawmaker in the state House introduced a bill this past session would have outlawed abortion and made providing it a felony. This bill included exemptions for miscarriages, stillbirths, and ectopic pregnancies, but not for rape or incest.

Those opposed to the constitutional amendment said that Language on the ballot was misleading and confusing. They argued that Republicans on purpose put the issue on the ballot in the primary rather than the general election in November, because the primary usually lower attendance, particularly from unaffiliated voters who may not know they are allowed to vote on the measure. In Kansas, 44 percent of registered voters are Republicans, 26% are Democrats, and unaffiliated voters make up about 30%. Kansas special election on abortion rights, Orion de Nevers, an attorney at the nonprofit Campaign Legal Center, He wrote in Shale, “is designed to let Republican voters decide the issue, while the voices of Democrats and unaffiliated voters — who collectively make up 55 percent of the Kansas electorate — are not heard.” Republican Secretary of State Scott Schwab expected a surge in primary voting driven in part by the abortion amendment.

All, who have worked in politics in the state for 18 years, said it’s encouraging to see people mobilizing to get out the vote. During a weekend in Wichita, All saw an elderly woman with a cane climbing in 95-degree heat. her grandmother had died from an illegal abortion. “I’ve never felt this kind of energy,” Ol told me. “A lot of people have touched on this subject in different ways.”

Kansans for Constitutional Freedom began ramping up its campaigns in May and June in the wake of the Supreme Court leaked out draft decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, and, by July, teams of volunteers were knocking on doors in large metro areas every day, as well as smaller teams in more rural areas. In an effort to appeal to more independent and conservative voters, the group tried to push the message that passage of the amendment would “impose government control over private medical decisions,” All said.

In late July, Mandy Culbertson, a volunteer in the Kansas City suburb of Overland Park, told me she didn’t want Kansas to become “another Texas or another Oklahoma”—two states that, along with neighboring Missouri, have passed laws effectively banning marijuana. of most abortions. Despite restrictions already in place and a long history of anti-abortion protests—including the 1991 Summer of Mercy protests, which effectively shut down the city of Wichita, and the murder of third trimester abortion provider Dr. George Tiller in 2009—Kansas is done safe haven for patients seeking abortion in the Midwest and South. After Texas enacted a six-week ban in 2021, Kansas providers began experiencing a backlog of patients.

Besides Kansas, other states could soon hold abortion rights ballot initiatives, including Michigan, California, Vermont and Montana;

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