TOPEKA, Kan. — Kansas on Tuesday held the nation’s first test of voter sentiment over the Supreme Court’s recent decision that upheld Roe v. Wade was overthrown, with people across the state deciding whether to allow their conservative legislature to further restrict or ban abortion.
The referendum on the proposed anti-abortion amendment to the Kansas Constitution is being closely watched as a barometer of the anger of liberal and moderate voters at the June ruling that overturned the nation’s abortion rights. But the result may not reflect broader feelings on the issue across the country given how conservative Kansas is and how twice as many Republicans as Democrats voted in the August primary over the past decade.
Proponents of the measure wouldn’t say before the vote if they plan to pursue a ban if it’s passed, but they’ve spent decades pushing for new restrictions almost annually, and many other Midwest and South states have abortion banned last weeks. By not stating their position, they tried to win voters in favor of some restrictions but not a total ban.
Abortion-right advocates expect lawmakers to outlaw abortion if the ballot measure passes, and the state has seen a surge in early voting with an electorate more democratic than usual.
“At what level does the madness stop?” said Eric Sheffler, a 60-year-old retired Army officer and Democrat who voted “no” early in the Kansas City suburbs. “What will you try to control next?”
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Polls opened across Kansas on Tuesday, with poll officials expecting the abortion measure to attract more voters. Polls were busy Tuesday morning, with lines reported in some locations. Typically, the Kansas primary is limited to the two major parties, but unaffiliated voters can vote for the constitutional amendment in this election. Larger counties of Sedgwick, Johnson and Wyandotte allowed more in-person and mail-in ballots in advance compared to the 2018 primary.
An anonymous group has sent Kansas voters a misleading text urging them to vote “yes” to protect the election. The Kansas City Star reported that the text message went to voters across the state, including former Democratic Gov. Kathleen Sebelius. Kansans for Constitutional Freedom, the main “no vote” campaign, called the text an example of “desperate and fraudulent tactics.”
The Kansas Secretary of State’s office said it has received calls from the general public about the texts and “acknowledges their concerns.” The Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission also posted on Twitter that under current law, endorsing text messages for constitutional ballot initiatives do not require attribution.
The Kansas measure would add language to the state constitution saying it does not grant abortion rights, which would allow lawmakers to regulate it at their discretion. Kentucky will vote to add similar language to its constitution in November.
Meanwhile, Vermont will decide in November whether to add an abortion-rights provision to its constitution. A similar question is likely heading into November’s Michigan election.
Kansas’ move comes in response to a 2019 decision by the state Supreme Court, which declared that access to abortion is a matter of bodily autonomy and a “fundamental” right under the state’s Bill of Rights.
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Both sides have spent more than $14 million on their campaigns combined. Abortion providers and abortion rights groups were major donors to the “No” side, while Catholic dioceses heavily funded the “Yes” campaign.
“I just feel like people have become so casual about abortion as if it’s just another method of birth control,” said Michelle Mulford, a 50-year-old Kansas City-area teacher and Republican who was an early proponent the proposed amendment had voted. It supports exceptions to the abortion ban for cases of rape, incest or life-threatening pregnancies.
Although some early voters advocate banning almost all abortions, the Yes Wahl campaign presented its move as a way to restore lawmakers’ power to set “reasonable” abortion limits and maintain existing restrictions.
Kansas does not ban most abortions until the 22nd week of pregnancy. But a law that would ban the most common second-trimester procedure and another that would set specific health rules for abortion providers remain on hold due to legal challenges.
Stan Ellsworth, a 69-year-old Republican retiree from the Kansas City area, said the argument that a yes vote meant an abortion ban was “bunk.”
“I haven’t spoken to a single person who wants that,” he said after voting yes early in the Kansas City suburbs. “Most will accept reasonable exceptions and I think the other side knows that’s true.”
Commenting on the Kansas vote Monday, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said, “If passed, tomorrow’s vote in Kansas could result in another state suspending voting rights and access to health care.” gutted.”
The Republican-controlled Legislature has had an anti-abortion majority since the early 1990s. Kansas hasn’t gone further in restricting abortion because anti-abortion advocates either felt limited by previous decisions by federal courts or because the governor was a Democrat, like Governor-elect Laura Kelly in 2018.
Kelli Kolich, a 35-year-old Kansas City-area pizza restaurant operator and independent voter, said she voted no because she believes people have a fundamental right to make their own health care decisions and expects a Yes vote “this right eliminated”. “
“Women would not have the opportunity to make the best choice for themselves,” she said after early voting while playing with her 18-month-old son.
Stafford reported from Overland Park and Olathe.
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https://6abc.com/kansas-abortion-vote-ban-law-roe-v-wade/12093410/ Kansas abortion vote: Voters to decide whether amendment can allow lawmakers to further restrict. ban abortions