Kansas voted in the first Wade election test against Roe to protect abortion rights

Aug 2 (Reuters) – Kansas voters on Tuesday rejected an attempt to remove abortion protections from the state’s constitution, a major victory for the abortion rights movement in the first statewide election test since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.

The amendment’s failure in the conservative state dashed hopes among Democrats that the abortion rights issue would draw voters to the party, who worry about rising inflation.

As a result, Kansas’ Republican-led legislature will block passage of tougher abortion restrictions in the state, which has become a major abortion access point for the heartland of America.

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“This should be a real wake-up call for abortion opponents,” said Neil Allen, a political science professor at Wichita State University. “When a total ban seems possible, you’re going to turn away a lot of people, and you’re going to lose moderate supporters of abortion restrictions.”

Political analysts expected the Kansas amendment to pass because Republicans typically outnumber Democrats and independents in state primaries.

But Tuesday’s polling showed more votes than expected. With 98% of votes counted, 59% of voters wanted to protect abortion rights, and nearly 41% supported removing abortion protections from state constitutions, according to Edison Research.

“This is a big decision for Kansas politics,” Allen said.

Kansas’ ballot initiative is the first of several asking U.S. voters to weigh in on abortion rights this year. Kentucky, California, Vermont and Michigan will put abortion on the ballot this fall.

A successful “Vote No” campaign in Kansas could provide a blueprint for abortion rights groups looking to harness voter energy in the wake of Roe’s reversal, Allen said.

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US President Joe Biden joined Democrats across the country in praising the results on Tuesday.

“This vote makes clear what we know: A majority of Americans agree that women should have access to abortion and the right to make their own health care decisions,” Biden said in a statement.

A statewide survey released in February by the Talking Institute of Public Affairs at Fort Hays State University showed that most Kansas residents do not support a total abortion ban.

Sixty percent disagreed that abortion should be outright illegal, and 50.5 percent said “Kansas government should not place any regulations on the circumstances under which women can obtain an abortion.”

Kansas Republicans have been pushing for a state constitutional amendment to eliminate abortion rights since 2019, when the Kansas Supreme Court ruled the state constitution protected abortion rights.

As a result of the ruling, Kansas has maintained more lenient policies than its conservative neighbors. The state allows abortions up to 22 weeks with several restrictions, including a 24-hour waiting period and mandatory parental consent for minors.

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Patients travel to Kansas for abortions from Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri and other states that have almost completely banned abortion since the Supreme Court overturned Roe in June, the 1973 decision that legalized abortion nationwide.

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A spokeswoman for the Foundation Women’s Abortion Clinic in Wichita says 60% of abortion patients are from out of state.

Tuesday’s vote drew national attention and money. The Value Them Boat Association, which supported the amendment, raised about $4.7 million this year, two-thirds of it from regional Catholic dioceses, according to campaign finance data.

Consensus for Constitutional Freedom, the main coalition opposing the amendment, raised about $6.5 million, including more than $1 million from Planned Parenthood groups.

Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, a national anti-abortion group, said it spent $1.4 million promoting the amendment and canvassed 250,000 homes in Kansas.

“Tonight’s loss is a huge disappointment to Kansans and Americans across the country,” said group spokeswoman Mallory Carroll. “The stakes for the pro-life movement in the upcoming midterm elections could not be higher.”

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Reporting by Gabriella Porter in Washington; Editing by Colin Jenkins and Cynthia Osterman

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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