When the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade this spring, the judges ruled that the citizens of the United States do not have a federal, constitutional right to abortion. And abortion law was turned over to individual states.
In Kansas, the right to abortion is protected in their state constitution, which can’t be changed without a vote from the populous — and this week, citizens took to the polls to decide the fate of abortion in their state.
Despite its history as a more conservative state, voters turned out in record-breaking numbers to roundly reject a constitutional amendment that would have allowed state lawmakers to further restrict or ban abortions across Kansas.
At the time of polls closing on Aug. 2, the “no” vote led 59% to 41%.
“The voters in Kansas have spoken loud and clear: We will not tolerate extreme bans on abortion,” said Rachel Sweet, the campaign manager for Kansans for Constitutional Freedom, which helped lead the effort to defeat the constitutional amendment.
The vote came as a surprise to many, and the double-digit margin win is being credited to registered Republicans and Independents who opposed the amendment and went against their party line.
“Registered Republicans far outnumber Democrats in Kansas — and abortion rights activists made explicit appeals to unaffiliated voters and center-right voters,” The New York Times explained. “ ... a number of voters said they were registered Republicans but opposed the amendment — a dynamic that almost certainly played out across the state, given the margin.”
The vote reflects, too, that despite the Supreme Court decision, the majority of Americans believe in a person’s right to choose.
Abortion rights activists and those in favor of protecting the right to an abortion hope this vote will send a message that voters are truly looking at issues from an individual level and not just voting based on party identity.
It also sends a clear message to other groups in states with constitutional rights to abortion that trying to pass a constitutional amendment via popular vote will be rough road.
The Kansas Supreme Court decided in 2019 that abortion was a guaranteed right according to their state constitution. Currently, abortion is legal in Kansas for up to 22 weeks of pregnancy.
On the other side of the aisle, Value Them Both, a group leading the “vote-yes” effort, tweeted, “This outcome is a temporary setback, and our dedicated fight to value women and babies is far from over.”
Nationwide, abortion is now illegal or heavily restricted in at least 12 states, and ten other states have laws in place set to quickly ban or severely restrict access to abortion. Kansas is the first state to vote in a post-Roe world, but they will not be the last. Seven other states have abortion on the ballot or are working to get it on the ballot before deadlines.