Kansans Support Right to Abortion in First Post-Roe Vote (3)

  • Kansas first of five states with abortion ballot measures
  • Political strategist calls result a ‘political earthquake’

(Updates with additional comment throughout.)

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Kansas voters refused Tuesday to change the state Constitution to declare there’s no right to an abortion.

Voter turnout was high for the first referendum on abortion since the US Supreme Court said each state can set its own policy.

The vote will keep intact a 2019 Kansas Supreme Court decision that granted abortion rights under the state Constitution. Courts will retain the grounds to invalidate any abortion ban that the Republican-dominated Legislature might advance.

“This is a political earthquake,” national Democratic strategist Paul Begala said on Twitter.

“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’,” NARAL Pro-Choice America President Mini Timmaraju said in a press release.

Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America said the proposal was defeated because “the abortion lobby’s message to voters was rife with lies that ultimately drowned out the truth.”

Since the vote was put on a primary election ballot, those working to drive turnout had to inform those unaffiliated with either political party that there was a reason to vote in a primary.

Combined, the organizations trying to sway votes for and against the amendment spent nearly $13 million on TV commercials, according to data compiled by AdImpact.

The state, which allows terminations up to 22 weeks, has long been a destination for abortion seekers coming from places with more restrictive laws. In 2019, nearly half of all those who received abortion care in the state were out-of-state residents, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

(Photographer: Dave Kaup/AFP via Getty Images)
Alie Utley and Joe Moyer (R) react to their county voting against the proposed abortion constitutional amendment during the Kansas for Constitutional Freedom primary election watch party in Overland Park, Kansas.

In the weeks since the US Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade, nearby states like Texas, Missouri and Arkansas have implemented total bans, driving up wait times as more patients seek care in Kansas.

Kansas was the first of five states with votes on abortion-related ballot measures this year. Voters will weigh in on abortion rights in California, Kentucky, Montana and Vermont in November, and activists will prepare their campaigns with the Kansas result in mind.

With assistance from Kelsey Butler

To contact the reporter on this story: Alex Ebert in Madison, Wisconsin at aebert@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Katherine Rizzo at krizzo@bgov.com; Fawn Johnson at fjohnson@bloombergindustry.com

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