When Kansas voters go to the polls on Tuesday, they will be asked whether the state’s constitution should continue to protect abortion rights.
It is the first time since the Supreme Court Roe v. Wade overthrew US voters to vote on abortion.
A proposed change on the state constitution on the Aug. 2 ballot, when Kansans will also pick nominees in various primary elections, removes language guaranteeing reproductive rights and asks voters if they prefer to leave the abortion issue in the hands of Republican-controlled ones States to lay legislature.
“The amendment doesn’t ban abortion, it allows the legislature to ban abortion if it wanted to,” said Bob Beatty, a political science professor at Washburn University in Topeka and an expert on Kansas politics.
The ballot issue has been scheduled for more than a year but has gained prominence in the weeks since the US Supreme Court scrapped the nation’s constitutional right to abortion on June 24.
Anti-abortion activists argue that the Kansas election issue merely creates an opportunity to put the issue in the hands of voters through their duly elected state legislature.
Abortion rights advocates warn that approving the ballot measure would almost certainly result in the elimination or curtailment of existing rights in a state that has lenient laws on its books compared to many of its neighbors.
“After federal abortion rights were repealed, Kansas lawmakers are saying, ‘We need to change our state constitution so that it no longer protects abortion rights, so we can go ahead and ban or restrict abortion now that we are legally allowed to do so.’ said Elizabeth Nash, a government policy analyst at the Guttmacher Institute, a research and policy organization dedicated to advancing sexual and reproductive health and rights. “If the Kansas Constitution no longer specifically protects the right to abortion, an abortion ban would sail through the legislature.”
Groups on both sides of the issue have bombarded the Kansas airwaves with ads worth millions of dollars, and a current survey showed a close vote on the electoral measure. Kansas City-based firm Co/Efficiency found that 47% of respondents said they voted “yes” to the question, while 43% said they voted “no.” Ten percent were undecided.
A 2019 Kansas Supreme Court ruling said the state’s constitution guarantees the right to abortion, in a statement that also snuffed out a list of proposed abortion restrictions. Almost immediately, Republicans and anti-abortion activists rushed to secure a ballot initiative that could overturn that decision. Over the past year, Republicans in both legislative houses used their supermajorities — overcoming opposition from Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly — to seize the initiative for the upcoming vote.
The electoral measure consists of language that pro-choice advocates argue they deliberately aim to confuse voters — from including a “statement” to labeling it “Value Them Both Amendment.”
A “yes” vote would affirm that “the Kansas State Constitution does not require state funding for abortion” — although there is no such requirement — “and does not create or secure an abortion right.” It would also confirm that “the people, through their elected officials and state senators, can pass laws on abortion,” which lawmakers are currently limited in their ability to do because of the 2019 court ruling.
It is then said that a “yes” vote confirms the previous statements, while a “no” vote would make no changes to the status quo.
Abortion advocates support a “no” vote on the measure.
In addition to electoral language, abortion advocates fear that if the issue is put before voters during a primary rather than a general election, turnout for voters more pro-reproductive rights could fall significantly. They also point out that non-partisan voters in the state — who are not allowed to vote for the two major political parties in the primary — may not realize they can still vote on the electoral issue.
“Everything about how this effort was designed was done to obscure that end goal,” said Ashley All, a spokeswoman for Kansas for Constitutional Freedom, a pro-abortion group that has helped lead efforts against the change .
“Their ultimate goal in Kansas is to ban abortion”
According to the Guttmacher Institute, abortion is legal in Kansas up to about 22 weeks of pregnancy. Under state law, women seeking abortion treatment are subject to several regulations, such as: B. A waiting period of 24 hours between requesting counseling and receiving the procedure and parental consent for minors.
Still, the rules are much less restrictive than in neighboring states. In Missouri and Oklahoma, legislation went into effect almost immediately after the Supreme Court ruling in late June banning virtually all abortion treatments in those states. At least 22 states have banned abortion or are about to do so. The new landscape is making Kansas a regional outlier — and a safe haven for women in and out of state seeking abortion treatment.
Abortion rights advocates argue that with Roe’s departure, there is far too much at stake to put the issue in the hands of state GOP lawmakers. They point to several recently proposed bills that would limit or ban abortion — including one introduced in March — that they say they will certainly be reinstated in upcoming sessions of the state legislature if the Kansas ballot initiative is successful.
Conversely, anti-abortion advocates claim it is more democratic to let voters decide the issue through their representatives. Many reject the suggestion that they seek more restrictive abortion laws.
“This is not an abortion ban,” said Republican MP Tory Marie Arnberger, a supporter of the initiative that helped get it through in August’s election. “I’m a fan of the fact that every state has its own abortion regulations. Since Roe v. Wade was repealed, that’s now every state’s right, and I think it’s up to each state’s legislature to decide what’s best for their state,” she added.
Abortion rights advocates, however, are undeterred by this argument.
“We believe their ultimate goal in Kansas is to ban abortion outright,” said All of Kansas for Constitutional Freedom, citing state Republicans. “And they’re doing it by literally taking away a constitutional right from women in Kansas.”
https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/2022-election/kansas-voters-decide-fate-state-abortion-rights-countrys-first-ballot-rcna40054 Kansas voters are deciding the fate of state abortion rights in the country’s first election test since the Roe inversion