United States: Kansas voters defeat anti-abortion amendment

August 5, 2022
Campaigning against the constitutional amendment in Kansas. Photo: @NARAL/Twitter

Kansans voted by a decisive margin on August 2, to reject a proposed amendment that would have removed the right to abortion from the state's constitution and empowered the Republican legislature to advance a total ban.

With almost all precincts reporting, the count was 59% against the amendment and 41% in favor, a strong win over Republican lawmakers' attempt to overturn a 2019 Kansas Supreme Court ruling that deemed abortion a protected right under the state constitution.

Turnout was far higher than in other primary contests in recent years, defying Republican efforts to take advantage of typically lower voter participation in primaries. According to the Associated Press, turnout approached "what's typical for a fall election for governor".

"This is truly a historic day for Kansas and for America. Freedom has prevailed," said Kansans for Constitutional Freedom, which helped lead the opposition to the amendment. "Thank you to everyone who took part in this movement."

The no vote on the first abortion-related referendum since the United States Supreme Court's decision overturning Roe v Wade came despite a last-minute flurry of disinformation by a Republican-backed organisation that aimed to mislead Kansans into thinking a yes vote would "give women a choice".

The defeated amendment would have added to the state constitution the following: "The constitution of the state of Kansas does not require government funding of abortion and does not create or secure a right to abortion."

State Republicans made clear in the weeks leading up to the vote that, had the amendment been approved, they were prepared to move swiftly to prohibit abortion entirely.

"We'll be able to make further laws, further refinement, with my goal of life starting at conception," Republican state senator Mark Steffen said at a rally in support of the amendment last month.

Mini Timmaraju, the president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, said on August 2, that "at a time when reproductive freedom is under unprecedented threat across the country, Kansans said loud and clear at the ballot box: 'We've had enough'".

"Reproductive freedom is a winning issue, now and in November," Timmaraju added. "Anti-choice lawmakers take note: The voters have spoken, and they will turn out at the ballot box to oppose efforts to restrict reproductive freedom."

While abortion is legal in Kansas, it is restricted both by the law and by a shortage of providers, creating a struggle for both Kansans and those looking to travel to the state for abortion care from Oklahoma and Missouri, neighboring states where the procedure has been outlawed.

Trust Women, an abortion clinic in Wichita, told the Washington Post that it has seen a 60% surge in out-of-state patients over the past year.

Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, said the vote is "an enormous victory for people in Kansas."

"Like the strong majority of people across the US, Kansans want to make their own decisions about abortion," said Northup. "Later this year, California, Michigan, Nevada and Vermont will vote on measures to protect abortion access, and Kentucky will vote on an anti-abortion measure. This is an important opportunity for voters in those states to directly defend their right to make personal decisions about their own lives, bodies, and futures."

[Reprinted from Common Dreams.]

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