Kansas voters have decided to maintain the right to an abortion in their state’s constitution by voting “no” on a proposed constitutional amendment, CNN projects.
It was the first popular vote on abortion since the US Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June.
The vote comes after a 2019 state Supreme Court ruling found the state constitution does protect the right to an abortion. A “yes” vote on the amendment would have removed the right to abortion from the state constitution, while a “no” vote maintains it.
The proposed amendment stated: “Because Kansans value both women and children, the Constitution of the state of Kansas does not require government funding of abortion and does not create or secure a right to abortion.”
Abortion is currently legal up to 22 weeks in Kansas, making the state as haven for women seeking the procedure in nearby states that have rolled back abortion rights. In response, anti-abortion and Republican groups pushed to change the state’s constitution to specify that the state does not guarantee the right to the procedure and open the door to similar strict laws in Kansas.
Pro-choice organizations responded with a widespread get-out-the-vote effort, viewing the fight as a test for abortion politics in a post-Roe era. And the victory on Tuesday represents a significant moment in the ever-changing fight over abortion rights, offering these groups a victory just weeks after they were dealt a crushing defeat by the Supreme Court.
“Kansas values have always exemplified freedom, and tonight, Kansas continued that legacy,” said Emily Wales, president and CEO, Planned Parenthood Great Plains Votes. “This historic victory was the result of a groundswell of grassroots support and a broad coalition of reasonable, thoughtful Kansans across the state who put health care over politics.”
Planned Parenthood in a statement said the “victory is a result of a long campaign to motivate voters to protect bodily autonomy at the ballot box.”
“Kansas is one of the only states in the region that safeguards access to legal abortion and following today’s vote will remain a critical access point,” it said in the statement.
Polls have consistently shown that the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade is broadly unpopular. A CNN poll released in late July found nearly two-thirds of Americans disapprove of the Supreme Court decision, with even 55% of self-identified moderate or liberal Republicans saying they disapproved of the decision. But the results on Tuesday, the first electoral test of abortion rights after the Supreme Court decision, put an even finer point on that sentiment.
“This is further proof of what poll after poll has told us: Americans support abortion rights,” said Christina Reynolds, a top operative for Emily’s List, an organization that looks to elect pro-choice women. “They believe we should be able to make our own health care decisions, and they will vote accordingly, even in the face of misleading campaigns.”
The “no” victory leaves the state constitution unchanged. While lawmakers in the state can still try to pass restrictive abortion laws, courts in Kansas have recognized a right to abortion under the state constitution. Lawmakers had passed a restrictive abortion law in 2015, but it was permanently blocked by the courts.
The “yes” vote would have amended the state’s constitution to say Kansas “does not require government funding of abortion and does not create or secure a right to abortion.” The vote would not have banned abortion outright, but it would have opened the door to the procedure being banned, especially considering Republicans control both chambers of the state’s legislature and almost every top office except for governor, which is held by Democrat Laura Kelly.
Kelly, who planned to vote no on the measure, warned that a “yes” vote would mean “the Legislature would immediately come back with some very severe restrictions on a woman’s ability to control her own fate.”
In addition to the win, Democrats have been enthused by the significant turnout.
The issue was placed on the primary ballot, rather than the general election, which abortion rights advocates believe was intended to limit turnout. Registered Republicans outnumber Democrats in the state by more than 350,000, according to the latest figures from the Kansas Secretary of State’s office.
But the victory — along with the increased turnout — is yet another signal that abortion can be a motivating factor for voters in a red state, a critical question as Democrats heads into what could be a trying midterm election.