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Kansas Voters Resoundingly Protect Their Access to Abortion

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TOPICA, Kansas (AP) — Kansas voters loudly declared their desire to protect abortion rights Tuesday, rejecting a ballot measure in a conservative state closely aligned with the anti-abortion movement that would allow the Republican-controlled Legislature to tighten restrictions or outright ban the procedure.

It was the first test of voter sentiment since the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in June that struck down the constitutional right to abortion, in an unexpected outcome with potential implications for the upcoming midterm elections.

Although it was just one state, the large turnout in the August primary, which usually favors Republicans, was a major victory for abortion rights advocates. They prevailed by about 20 percentage points in most of the vote counts, and the turnout was close to typical for the fall gubernatorial elections.

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The vote also gave hope to Democrats across the country looking to change the rules of the game for an election year otherwise filled with grim omens for their prospects in November.

“This vote makes clear what we know: the majority of Americans agree that women should have access to abortion and the right to make their own health care decisions,” President Joe Biden said.

Calling on Congress to “restore Roe’s protection” in federal law, Biden added, “And the American people must continue to use their voice to defend women’s right to health care, including abortion.”

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The Kansas vote also served as a warning to Republicans, who applauded the Supreme Court’s decision and moved quickly to ban or near-ban abortion in nearly half the states.

“Cansanz has categorically rejected attempts by anti-abortion politicians to create a reproductive health police state,” said Kimberly Inez McGuire, executive director of Unite for Reproductive & Gender Equity. “Today’s vote was a powerful rebuke and a promise of growing resistance.”

Callie Malloy (left) from Shawnee, Kansas; Cassie Woolworth of Olathe, Kansas; and Don Rattan (right) of Shawnee, Kansas cheering during the main party.

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The proposed amendment to the Kansas Constitution would add language to the effect that it does not give the right to abortion. A 2019 state Supreme Court decision declared that access to abortion is a “fundamental” right under the state’s Bill of Rights, preventing a ban and potentially undermining legislative efforts to introduce new restrictions.

The referendum was closely watched as a barometer of liberal and moderate voter anger over the Supreme Court’s decision to end the nation’s right to abortion. In Kansas, anti-abortion opponents did not say what legislation they would enforce if the amendment was passed, and outraged when opponents predicted it would lead to a ban.

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Mallory Carroll, spokesperson for Susan B. Anthony’s national anti-abortion group Pro-Life America, called the vote a “huge disappointment” for the movement and urged anti-abortion candidates to “go on the offensive.”

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She added that following the U.S. Supreme Court ruling, “we must work exponentially to achieve and maintain the protection of unborn children and their mothers.”

Hannah Jörger (left), Amanda Grosserod (center) and Mara Lafman embrace during the Appreciate Them Both party.

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The failure of this measure was also significant due to Kansas’ ties to anti-abortion activists. The 1991 “Summer of Mercy” anti-abortion protests inspired anti-abortion takeover of the Kansas Republican Party and made the Legislature more conservative. They were there because Dr. George Tiller’s clinic was one of the few in the US known to perform late-term abortions, and he was murdered in 2009 by an anti-abortion extremist.

Anti-abortion lawmakers wanted the vote to coincide with the state’s August primary, arguing they wanted to make sure it was the focus, though others saw it as an obvious attempt to improve their chances of winning. Twice as many Republicans as Democrats voted in the state’s August primary a decade before Tuesday’s election.

“This result is a temporary setback and our dedicated fight for the value of women and children is far from over,” said Emily Massey, spokesperson for the Amendment Campaign.

Tuesday’s vote was not typical of a Kansas primary, especially as tens of thousands of unaffiliated voters cast their ballot.

Christy Winter, 52, a Kansas City teacher and independent voter, voted against the measure and brought her 16-year-old daughter to the polls with her.

“I want her to have the same right to do what she sees fit, basically in the case of rape or incest,” she said. “I want her to have the same rights that my mother had for most of her life.”

Opponents of the measure predicted that anti-abortion groups and the legislators behind the measure would be quick to push for a ban on abortion if approved by voters. Before the vote, supporters of the measure declined to say whether they would seek a ban as they reached out to voters who supported both some of the restrictions and some access to abortion.

Stephanie Kostreva, a 40-year-old Kansas City school nurse and Democrat, said she voted for the measure because she is a Christian and believes life begins at conception.

“I don’t fully agree that abortion should never happen,” she said. “I know there are medical emergencies, and when a mother’s life is in danger, there is no reason for two people to die.”

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On Monday, an anonymous group sent misleading text to Kansas voters asking them to “vote yes” to defend the choice, but it was blocked on the Twilio messaging platform it uses late Monday night, a spokesman said. Twilio did not determine the sender.

A 2019 Kansas Supreme Court ruling protecting abortion rights blocked a law banning the most common procedure in the second trimester, and another law imposing special medical rules for abortion providers is also suspended. Opponents of abortion have argued that all of the state’s existing restrictions are at risk, although some legal scholars have found this argument dubious. Kansas does not prohibit most abortions before the 22nd week of pregnancy.

The Kansas vote is the start of what could be a long series of legal battles in which lawmakers are more conservative on abortion than governors or state courts. Kentucky will vote in November to add language similar to Kansas’ proposed state constitutional amendment.

Meanwhile, Vermont will decide in November whether to add an abortion right to its constitution. A similar question is likely to go to the November vote in Michigan.

In Kansas, the two sides together spent more than $14 million on their campaigns. Abortion providers and abortion rights groups were key funders of the “no” supporters, while Catholic dioceses heavily funded the “yes” campaign.

The state legislature has had a strong anti-abortion majority for 30 years, but voters have regularly elected Democratic governors, including Laura Kelly in 2018. She opposed the proposed amendment, saying that changing the state constitution would “throw the state back into darkness.” Age”.

State Attorney General Derek Schmidt, a Republican hoping to remove Kelly, supported the proposed constitutional amendment. Before the election, he told Catholic television network EWTN that “there is still room for progress” on cutting abortions, without specifying what he would sign as governor.

While anti-abortion pushers pushed for new restrictions almost every year until a state Supreme Court ruling in 2019, they felt limited by past court rulings and Democratic governors like Kelly.

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Stafford reported from Overland Park and Olathe.

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