In a conservative state with strong ties to the anti-abortion movement, Kansas voters on Tuesday sent a clear message about their desire to protect abortion rights by rejecting a ballot measure that would have allowed the Republican-controlled Legislature to impose more restrictions or outright ban the procedure.
After the U.S. Supreme Court abolished the constitutional right to an abortion in June, this was the first test of voter mood, and it produced an unexpected outcome that could have consequences for the upcoming midterm elections.
Even though it was only one state, the high participation in an August primary that usually favors Republicans was a significant win for proponents of abortion rights. When the majority of the votes had been tallied, they were ahead by about 20 percentage points, and the turnout was about average for a fall governor’s race.
The decision also offered a glimmer of hope for Democrats throughout the country who were yearning for a game-changer in a campaign year otherwise rife with gloomy predictions for their chances in November.
President Joe Biden said in a statement, “This vote makes clear what we know: the majority of Americans agree that women should have access to abortion and should have the right to choose their own health care.”
Biden continued, “And, the American people must continue to use their voices to safeguard the right to women’s health care, including abortion,” after urging Congress to “establish the protections of Roe” in federal law.
Republicans who had praised the Supreme Court decision and were working quickly to enact abortion bans or near-bans in nearly half the states received a caution from the Kansas vote.
According to Kimberly Inez McGuire, executive director of Unite for Reproductive & Gender Equity, “Kansans clearly rejected anti-abortion lawmakers’ ambitions to create a reproductive police state.” The vote today was both a forceful rebuke and a declaration of the growing resistance.
The Kansas Constitution would not grant the right to an abortion, according to the proposed amendment’s new phrasing. A 2019 state Supreme Court ruling prevented a ban and might have prevented legislative attempts to pass new limitations by stating that access to abortion is a “fundamental” right protected by the state’s Bill of Rights.
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