The Supreme Court’s recent rejection of Roe v. Wade will be the first time in any state in the United States that voters will vote on abortion. On Tuesday, Kansas voters will decide on a constitutional amendment that will determine the future of abortion rights in their state.
The “Value Them Both Amendment” is a ballot issue that asks voters if the state’s constitution should continue to safeguard the right to an abortion. The state’s Republican-controlled legislature would be given the power to decide whether or not to legalise abortion under the proposed amendment to the state Constitution, which, according to abortion activists, is almost certain to result in the abolition or restriction of those rights.
The right to an abortion would be eliminated from the state constitution and returned to the state legislature if the measure passed with a “yes” vote. Abortion rights will remain established in the state Constitution with a “no” vote on the proposal.
Those who oppose abortion claim that the Kansas ballot question offers a chance to put the decision in the hands of the people through elected state officials. Pro-abortion advocates fear that if the ballot initiative passes, existing rights would almost likely be eliminated or restricted in a state with more permissive laws than many of its neighbours.
According to Elizabeth Nash, a state policy analyst at the Guttmacher Institute, a think tank that advances reproductive rights, “Kansas lawmakers are saying that now that federal abortion rights have been overturned, we need to change our state Constitution so it no longer protects abortion rights, so that we can go ahead and ban or restrict abortion now that we’re legally allowed to” “An abortion ban would breeze through the legislature if the Kansas Constitution is no longer judged to clearly guarantee abortion rights.”
The ballot question has been in the works for more than a year, but in the weeks following the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision in June, which ended the federal constitution’s right to an abortion, it has gained more relevance.
Mid-July saw the start of early voting in the state, and as of last Tuesday, the Kansas secretary of state’s office announced that more than twice as many voters as at the same period in the 2018 midterm primary election had had cast early votes.
Kansas Abortion Rights Vote
The measure’s vote on Tuesday is anticipated to be tight.
There hasn’t been much polling, but the Kansas City-based company co/efficient found that in a July survey, 47% of participants said they intended to vote “yes” to remove the right to abortion from the Constitution and give the legislature the power to decide on abortion rights, while 43% said they intended to vote “no.” 10% of respondents were unsure. Both sides of the argument have spent millions of dollars on radio and television advertisements in Kansas.
The bill aims to overturn a Kansas Supreme Court decision from 2019 that stated the state’s Constitution guaranteed the right to an abortion. By doing this, the state legislature would be able to enact regulations that would limit or outlaw abortion.
The timing and wording of the ballot issue are two of the many things that proponents of abortion rights allege are working against them.
For starters, they have voiced alarm over the ballot measure’s alleged use of language that is intended to mislead voters. A “yes” vote, for instance, would declare, despite the absence of any such requirement, that “the constitution of the state of Kansas does not require government funding of abortion” and “does not provide or ensure a right to abortion.” The 2019 court decision has placed restrictions on lawmakers’ ability to adopt abortion laws, therefore a “yes” vote would indicate that “the people, through their elected state representatives and state senators, may pass laws addressing abortion.”
Voting “no” on the proposals would maintain the existing quo, which is supported by advocates of abortion rights.
Voters apparently got false text messages on election day telling them that voting “yes” would guarantee their right to an abortion. It’s unknown who is in charge of disseminating the message.
Pro-abortion activists condemned the action. Ashley All, a representative for Kansans for Constitutional Freedom, said: “This is yet another illustration of the desperate and dishonest methods of the Value Them Both campaign, lying to the citizens of Kansas.”
The Consider Them Coalition both denied having anything to do with the communication.
Those who support abortion rights also expressed concern that having the issue on the ballot during a primary rather than a general election would significantly reduce the number of voters who would otherwise vote in favour of those rights. However, the secretary of state’s early voting data suggests that may not be the case.
They’ve also mentioned the possibility that state residents who aren’t eligible to vote in the primaries of the two major political parties may not be aware they can still cast ballots on the ballot question.
Ashley All, a spokeswoman for Kansas for Constitutional Freedom, a pro-abortion rights organisation that has been helping to lead efforts to reject the amendment, told NBC News in a recent interview that “everything about how this campaign was constructed was done so in a way that obscures that end aim.”
Proponents of abortion rights have claimed that now that Roe has been overturned, the stakes are too high to leave the decision to state GOP lawmakers. They cite numerous recently introduced proposals that would limit or outlaw abortion, including one that was introduced in March, and claim that if the Kansas ballot measure is successful, these bills would undoubtedly be reintroduced in following state legislature sessions.
Opponents of abortion, however, contend that letting the people determine the matter through their elected officials is a more democratic approach. The claim that they want stricter abortion legislation is widely denied.
Republican state Rep. Tory Marie Arnberger, who supported the measure and worked to get it on the August ballot, recently told NBC News that “this is not an abortion prohibition.” “I support having individualised abortion laws in each state. Since Roe v. Wade has been reversed, every state now has the legal authority to legalise abortion, and I believe it is up to each state legislature to determine what is best for their state, she continued.
According to the Guttmacher Institute, abortion is permitted up until roughly the 22nd week of pregnancy in Kansas. According to state law, women seeking abortion care must abide by a number of restrictions, including a 24-hour waiting time before the procedure and parental consent for minors.
Even yet, the regulations are significantly less onerous than those in the states next to us. Following the Supreme Court decision in late June that effectively outlawed almost all abortion treatment in those states, laws that were almost immediately put into force in Missouri and Oklahoma.
At least 22 states have already outlawed abortion or will do so shortly. The new environment makes Kansas a regional outlier and a safe refuge for out-of-state and local women seeking abortion treatment, but if the proposal passes, those benefits would be reduced or eliminated.