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Kansas Votes to Preserve Abortion Rights Protections in Its Constitution

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. – Kansas voters have firmly decided not to remove the right to abortion from the state constitution, according to The Associated Press, a major victory for the abortion rights movement in one of America’s most trusted conservative states.

The defeat of the ballot referendum was the most tangible demonstration yet of political opposition to the US Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark decision that had protected abortion rights across the country. The deciding margin came as a surprise, and after frenzied campaigns where both sides put millions into ads and knocked on doors during a blistering final campaign run.

On a campaign night in suburban Overland Park, abortion rights supporters screamed for joy as MSNBC showed their side with a commanding lead.

“We look at the votes coming in, we see the changes in some of the counties where Donald Trump had a huge percentage of the vote, and we see that just got decimated,” said Jo Dee Adelung, 63, a Democrat from Merriam , Kansas, which has been knocking on doors and calling voters in recent weeks.

She said she hoped the result would send a message that voters are “really looking at all the issues and doing what’s right for Kansas and not just party lines.”

The Kansas vote, three months before the midterm elections, marked the first time U.S. voters had spoken directly on the issue of abortion since the U.S. Supreme Court overthrown Roe v. Wade this summer. The referendum, which has been closely watched by national figures on both sides of the abortion debate, took on additional importance because of Kansas’s location, bordering states where abortion is already banned in almost all cases. More than $12 million has been spent on advertising, split roughly evenly between the two camps. The amendment, if passed, would have removed abortion protections from the state constitution, paving the way for lawmakers to ban or restrict abortions.

“We said that after a decision is made in Washington, the spotlight would shift to Kansas,” said David Langford, a retired engineer from Leawood, Kansas, who wants the amendment passed and who is reaching out to Protestant ministers for support. collect.

The push for an amendment was rooted in a 2019 Kansas Supreme Court ruling that lifted some abortion restrictions and found that the right to abortion was guaranteed by the state constitution. That decision infuriated Republicans, who had spent years enforcing abortion restrictions and campaigning on the issue. They used their super-majority legislature last year to put the issue on the 2022 ballot.

That state-level battle over abortion limits took on much greater significance after the country’s highest court overthrew Roe and opened the door in June for states to go beyond restrictions and ban abortions entirely. The Roman Catholic Church and other religious and conservative groups have spent a lot of money to support the amendment, while national abortion rights advocates put millions of dollars into the race to oppose it.

Supporters of the amendment have repeatedly said that the amendment itself would not ban abortion, and Republican lawmakers have been careful not to telegraph what their legislative plans would be if passed.

“Voting yes doesn’t mean we don’t allow abortion, it means we let our lawmakers determine the scope of abortion,” said Mary Jane Muchow of Overland Park, Kansas, who supported the amendment. “I think abortion should be legal, but I think there should be restrictions on it.”

If the amendment was passed, however, the question was not whether Republicans would try to use their commanding legislative majorities to pass new restrictions, but how far they would go. Many Opportunities who support abortion rights said they feared a total or near-complete abortion ban would be passed within months

abortion is now legal in Kansas up to 22 weeks gestation.

“I don’t want to become another state that bans all abortion for any reason,” said Barbara Grigar of Overland Park, Kansas, who identified herself as moderate and said she voted against the amendment. “Choice is every woman’s choice, not the government’s.”

A Pew Research Center Survey published last month, it found that a majority of Americans said abortion should be legal in all or most cases, and more than half of adults disapproved of the Supreme Court’s decision to overthrow Roe.

Kansas has been a focal point of the national abortion debate since at least 1991, when protesters from across the country gathered in Wichita and blocked access to clinics during weeks of heated demonstrations they called the Summer of Mercy.

At times, the state has seen violence over the issue. In 1986, an abortion clinic in Wichita was attacked with a pipe bomb. In 1993, an anti-abortion woman, Dr. George Tiller, one of the few American doctors to perform late abortions. In 2009, another anti-abortion activist shot and killed Dr. Tiller at his church in Wichita.

In recent years, and especially in the weeks since Roe fell, Kansas has become a haven for abortion in a region where that is becoming increasingly rare.

Even before the Supreme Court action, almost half of the abortions performed in Kansas involved out-of-state residents. With Oklahoma and Missouri having banned the procedure in nearly all cases, Nebraska may further restrict abortion in the coming months, and women from Arkansas and Texas, where new bans are in effect, travel far beyond the borders of their state.

Kansas is reliably Republican in presidential elections, and voters are generally conservative on many issues, but polls before the referendum suggested a close-knit race and nuanced public opinion on abortion. The state is not a political monolith: In addition to the Democratic governor, a majority of Kansas Supreme Court justices were appointed by Democrats, and Representative Sharice Davids, a Democrat, represents the Kansas City suburbs in Congress.

Mrs. Davids’ district was once a moderate Republican stronghold, but it’s… leaning towards democrats in recent years. Her November re-election contest in a redesigned district is arguably one of the most competitive House races in the country, and party strategists expect the abortion debate to play a major role in districts like hers, which include swathes of upscale suburbs.

Political strategists are especially attuned to the turnout in suburban Kansas City, trying to gauge just how stimulative abortion is, especially for swing voters and Democrats in a post-Roe environment.

“They’re going to look at how to advise their candidates to talk about the issue, they’re going to look at any political handicap,” said James Carville, the veteran Democratic strategist. “Every campaign consultant, everybody looks at this thing like it’s the Super Bowl.”

As the election approached, and especially since the Supreme Court ruling, the rhetoric on the issue has grown hotter. Campaign boards on both sides have been destroyed, police officials and activists said. In Overland Park, a Kansas City suburb, vandals attacked a Catholic church, damaging a building and a statue of Mary with red paint.

Ahead of Tuesday’s vote, which coincided with the primaries, Scott Schwabthe Republican Secretary of State, predicted that about 36 percent of Kansas voters would participate, slightly more than the primary in 2020, a year of the presidential election. His office said the constitutional amendment “increased voters’ interest in the election,” a sentiment felt on the ground.

“I love women’s rights,” said Norma Hamilton, a 90-year-old Republican from Lenexa, Kansas. Despite her party registration, she voted no.

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