Kansas votes to preserve abortion rights in the first case after Roe v. Wade election test

(Reuters) – Kansas voters on Tuesday rejected an attempt to remove abortion protections from the state constitution, a resounding victory for the abortion rights movement in the first statewide electoral test since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. valley.

The failure of the amendment in the conservative state raised Democrats’ hopes that the issue of abortion rights would draw voters into the party in the November midterm elections even as they worried about soaring inflation.

The result will also prevent Republican-led legislation in Kansas from passing strict abortion restrictions in the state, which has become a major access point for abortion in the heart of America.

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“This should be a real wake-up call for abortion opponents,” said Neil Allen, a professor of political science at Wichita State University. “When a complete ban seems a possibility, you’re going to get a lot of people to turn up and you’re going to lose a lot of moderate proponents of abortion restrictions.”

Political analysts expected the Kansas Amendment to pass, given that Republicans typically turn out for state primaries in greater numbers than Democrats and independents.

But Tuesday’s vote led to a higher-than-expected turnout. With 98% of the vote counted, 59% of voters favored preserving abortion rights compared to nearly 41% who supported removing abortion protections from the state constitution, according to Edison research.

“This is a gigantic consequence of Kansas politics,” Allen said.

The Kansas Ballot Initiative is the first of several that will ask American voters to consider abortion rights this year. Kentucky, California, Vermont and possibly Michigan will have abortions on the ballot this fall.

Allen said the successful Vote No campaign in Kansas could offer a blueprint for abortion rights groups looking to harness voter energy in the wake of Roe’s reversal.

US President Joe Biden joined Democrats across the country in praising the results on Tuesday.

“This vote illustrates what we know: A majority of Americans agree that women should have the right to abortion and should have the right to make their own health care decisions,” Biden said in a statement.

A statewide poll released by the Docking Institute of Public Affairs at Fort Hays State University in February showed that most Kansas residents do not support a complete abortion ban.

Sixty percent opposed that abortion should be completely illegal, and 50.5 percent said, “The Kansas government should not make any regulations about the circumstances under which a woman can have abortions.”

Kansas Republicans have been pushing for a state constitutional amendment to repeal abortion rights since 2019, when the Kansas Supreme Court ruled that the state constitution protects the right to abortion.

As a result of the ruling, Kansas has maintained more lenient policies than its conservative neighbors. The state allows abortions up to 22 weeks of pregnancy with several restrictions, including a mandatory 24-hour waiting period and mandatory parental consent for minors.

High stakes in November

Patients travel to Kansas for abortions from Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri and other states that have banned the procedure almost entirely since the Supreme Court in June overturned the 1973 Roe decision that legalized abortion nationwide.

A spokeswoman for the Trust Women’s abortion clinic in Wichita said 60% of abortion patients are from out of state.

Tuesday’s referendum attracted national attention and money. The Value Them Both Association, which supported the amendment, raised about $4.7 million this year, about two-thirds of that from regional Catholic parishes, according to campaign finance data.

Kansas for Constitutional Freedom, the main coalition opposed to the amendment, has raised about $6.5 million, including more than $1 million from Planned Parenthood groups.

Susan B. said: Anthony Pro Live America, a national anti-abortion group, said it spent $1.4 million to promote the amendment and raised 250,000 homes in Kansas.

“Tonight’s loss is a huge disappointment for pro-life Kansan and Americans across the country,” said Mallory Carroll, a spokesperson for the group. “The stakes for the pro-life movement in the upcoming midterm elections couldn’t be greater.”

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Coverage by Gabriella Porter in Washington. Editing by Colin Jenkins and Cynthia Osterman

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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