How abortion rights advocates preserved access in Kansas

The goal, according to Kansans for Constitutional Freedom, the coalition opposing the amendment: to engage Sunflower State voters from all political walks of life, including rural voters, registered Republican voters running in the primaries and the wide range of unaffiliated voters who usually sit outside the primaries.

As of Wednesday morning, the numbers were clear: Even as the votes were still tallied, nearly 59% of Kansans voted ‘no’ to the amendment, maintaining the status quo in the state, where abortion is currently legal. up to 22 weeks. And the turnout was tremendous, with more than 900,000 votes counted on the amendment Wednesday afternoon. (By comparison, fewer than 750,000 votes were counted for the gubernatorial race.)

“Kansans turned out in historic numbers for a primary election to reject this change to our state’s constitution. They did so because we found common ground among the various electoral blocs and mobilized people from all political horizons to vote no,” said KCF campaign manager Rachel Sweet. , said during a call with the media on Wednesday.

According to Ashley All, director of communications for KCF, almost all of Kansas’ 105 counties had a local organization or local leader coordinating outreach. The coalition had more than $6.5 million to fund its campaign against the amendment.

Bob Beatty, professor of political science at Washburn University, called the margin a “shock”.

“No one in Kansas, from political strategists to pundits to analysts, predicted that kind of margin,” he told CNN.

The result was surprising for several reasons, he said: Polls ahead of Tuesday showed “yes” leading, primaries are traditionally low turnout, and Kansas almost always elects Republicans in statewide competition.

Christopher Emily, 27, was among those who voted against the amendment.

“I just think health care is a basic right,” he told CNN. “It’s something that has to happen if the situation calls for it.”

How the abortion issue ended up on the ballot

The amendment that appeared on Tuesday’s poll was years in the making.

In 2019, the Kansas Supreme Court ruled that the right to abortion was protected by the state constitution’s Bill of Rights.

In response, the constitutional amendment was drafted by the Value Them Both coalition, a group of organizations including Kansas Family Voice and Kansans for Life, who “work to push back and correct what our court has done,” Brittany Jones, Kansas Family Voice policy director, told CNN.

A Senate resolution that sought to put the amendment on the ballot was first introduced in the state legislature in 2020, but it did not receive enough votes for final passage.

The resolution was reintroduced last year and was approved by the necessary two-thirds majority of the GOP-controlled legislature in February 2021.

The question was then placed on this year’s primary ballot, rather than the general election, which abortion rights advocates say was done intentionally by Republicans in the state to limit turnout.

But the stakes rose when, in June, the U.S. Supreme Court decided to overturn Roe v. Wade, ending federal abortion rights, in a case involving Mississippi’s restrictive abortion law. Kansas lawyers said the state constitution was the only thing protecting access to abortion with Roe overturned. After the US Supreme Court ruling, KCF said it saw an increase in volunteer energy and fundraising.

The Value Them Both coalition, which proposed the amendment, blamed Tuesday’s outcome on “a wave of misinformation from hard-left organizations that have spent millions of dollars out of state to spread lies on the constitutional amendment.

“Unfortunately, the mainstream media propelled the false narrative from the left, contributing to the confusion that misled Kansans about the amendment,” the Value Them Both coalition said in a statement.

Still, voters told CNN why they voted for the amendment — thus supporting the cause of Value Them Both.

“I don’t think it’s confusing at all. It gives legislators the ability to pass abortion laws. It’s pretty straightforward for me,” Drew Sanlin, one of the first voters, told CNN. who supported the amendment.

“It’s really hard, because I know there are women who feel different, and it’s hard to be on the other side of them,” said Susan Peterson, 60, who voted “yes” to the amendment.

She told CNN it was “important to set at least some limits” on abortion, adding that “if it’s going to happen, let’s do it within reason.”

What happens next

For now, abortion is currently legal up to 22 weeks in Kansas, and the state will likely continue to be a haven for women seeking the procedure in neighboring states that have revoked abortion rights. .

The Value Them Both coalition called Tuesday’s result a “temporary setback” and said their “dedicated fight to empower women and babies is far from over”.

“As our state becomes an abortion destination, it will be even more important for Kansans to support our pregnancy resource centers, post-abortion ministries, and other organizations that provide supportive care for women facing to unexpected pregnancies,” the coalition said in a statement. “We will be back.”

Despite celebrating the victory on Tuesday, KCF said Wednesday that the fight to protect access to abortion in the state continues.

Ashley All, KCF’s communications director, said the “biggest concern” she now has is the two-thirds majority of Republicans in the legislature who may choose to pass another abortion-related amendment on the ballot.

She stressed that it will be important to protect Kansas Supreme Court justices who must vote to retain this year, arguing that several anti-abortion groups will try to target the court in the wake of Tuesday’s vote.

All added that she had “no doubt there will be additional bills introduced in the spring to limit access in other ways,” adding that lawmakers “have not been deterred in the past, and I don’t think that matters.”

“I think we still have to have conversations with voters on this issue. We have to keep raising the alarm when bad bills come forward,” she said.

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