Kansas first state to vote on abortion after Roe’s death

TOPEKA, Kan. — Kansas on Tuesday held the nation’s first test of voter sentiment on the Supreme Court’s recent decision overturning Roe v. Wade, with people across the state deciding whether to allow their conservative legislature to further restrict or ban abortions.

The referendum on the proposed anti-abortion amendment to the Kansas constitution is being watched closely as a barometer of the anger of liberal and moderate voters over the June decision to repeal the nationwide right to abortion. But the result may not reflect broader sentiment on the issue in the country as a whole, given how conservative Kansas is and how twice as many Republicans as Democrats have voted in August primaries over the past decade.

Supporters of the measure would not say before the vote whether they intend to continue the ban if it passes, but they have spent decades pushing for new restrictions on an almost annual basis, and many other states in the Midwest and South have banned abortions in recent weeks. By not stating their position, they are seeking to win over voters who support some restrictions but not a total ban.


Abortion rights advocates expect the Legislature to ban abortions if the ballot measure passes, and the state has seen a surge in early voting with an electorate that is more Democratic than usual.

“At what level does the insanity stop?” said Eric Scheffler, a 60-year-old retired Army officer and Democrat who voted no early in suburban Kansas City. “What will they try to control next?”

Polls opened Tuesday in Kansas, and election officials expected the abortion measure to draw more voters. Bands were busy on Tuesday morning, with queues reported in some places. Kansas primary elections are usually limited to the two major parties, but unaffiliated voters can vote in this election on the constitutional amendment. Early in-person voting and mail-in ballots increased in large Sedgwick, Johnson and Wyandotte counties compared to the 2018 primary.


An anonymous group sent a misleading text to Kansas voters telling them to “vote yes” to protect the choice. The Kansas City Star reported that the text message was sent to voters across the state, including former Democratic Gov. Kathleen Sibelius. Kansans for Constitutional Freedom, the main “Vote No” campaign, called the text an example of “desperate and deceptive tactics.”

The Kansas measure would add a no-abortion clause to the state constitution, allowing lawmakers to regulate it as they see fit. Kentucky will vote in November to add similar language to its constitution.

Meanwhile, Vermont will decide in November whether to add an abortion rights provision to its constitution. A similar question is likely heading to the November ballot in Michigan.

The Kansas measure is a response to a 2019 state Supreme Court ruling that declared access to abortion a matter of bodily autonomy and a “fundamental” right under the State’s Bill of Rights.


Both parties combined have spent more than $14 million on their campaigns. Abortion providers and abortion rights groups were key donors to the No side, while Catholic dioceses heavily funded the Yes campaign.

“I feel like people have become so casual about abortion, like it’s just another method of birth control,” said Michelle Mulford, a 50-year-old Kansas City-area teacher and Republican who voted early for the proposed amendment, adding , that she supports exceptions to the abortion ban for cases of rape, incest, or life-threatening pregnancies.

Although some early voters support banning nearly all abortions, the “yes” campaign pitched the measure as a way to restore lawmakers’ power to set “reasonable” limits on abortions and maintain existing restrictions.

Kansas does not prohibit most abortions until the 22nd week of pregnancy. But a law that would ban the most common procedure in the second trimester and another that would set special health regulations for abortion providers remain on hold amid legal challenges.


Stan Ellsworth, a 69-year-old Republican retiree from the Kansas City area, said the argument that a “yes” vote means banning abortion is “nonsense.”

“I haven’t talked to a single person who wants this,” he said after an early yes vote in the Kansas City suburbs. “Most will accept reasonable exceptions, and I think the other side knows that’s true.”

White House Press Secretary Karin Jean-Pierre weighed in on Monday’s Kansas vote, saying, “If it passes, tomorrow’s vote in Kansas could result in the disenfranchisement of another state and the gutting of access to health care.”

The Republican-controlled Legislature has had an anti-abortion majority since the early 1990s. Kansas has not gone further in restricting abortion because abortion opponents have felt constrained either by past federal court rulings or because the governor has been a Democrat, such as Gov. Laura Kelly, who was elected in 2018.

Kelly Kolich, a 35-year-old Kansas City-area pizzeria operator and independent voter, said she voted no because she believes people have a fundamental right to make their own health care choices and expects a yes vote to “eliminate of this right”. “


“Women would not have the ability to determine the best choice for themselves,” she said after voting early while playing with her 18-month-old son.


Stafford reported from Overland Park and Olathe.


Follow John Hanna on Twitter: https://twitter.com/apjdhanna

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Kansas first state to vote on abortion after Roe’s death

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