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Kansas Votes to Preserve Abortion Rights Protections in Its Structure

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OVERLAND PARK, Kan. — Kansas voters resoundingly decided against removing the best to abortion from the State Structure, in line with The Associated Press, a serious victory for the abortion rights movement in considered one of America’s reliably conservative states.

The defeat of the ballot referendum was probably the most tangible demonstration yet of a political backlash against the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark decision that had protected abortion rights throughout the country. The decisive margin — 60 to 39 percent, with about 80 percent of the votes counted as of Tuesday night — got here as a surprise, and after frenzied campaigns with either side pouring tens of millions into promoting and knocking on doors throughout a sweltering final campaign stretch.

“The voters in Kansas have spoken loud and clear: We won’t tolerate extreme bans on abortion,” said Rachel Sweet, the campaign manager for Kansans for Constitutional Freedom, which led the hassle to defeat the amendment.

Ms. Sweet told supporters that a willingness to work across partisan lines and ideological differences helped their side win.

Registered Republicans far outnumber Democrats in Kansas — and abortion rights activists made explicit appeals to unaffiliated voters and center-right voters. In interviews last week in populous Johnson County, Kan., plenty of voters said they were registered Republicans but opposed the amendment — a dynamic that nearly definitely played out across the state, given the margin.

“We’re watching the votes are available in, we’re seeing the changes of a few of the counties where Donald Trump had an enormous percentage of the vote, and we’re seeing that just decimated,” said Jo Dee Adelung, 63, a Democrat from Merriam, Kan., who knocked on doors and called voters in recent weeks.

She said she hoped the result sent a message that voters are “really taking a take a look at all the issues and doing what’s right for Kansas and never just happening party lines.”

Value Them Each, a gaggle leading the vote-yes effort, said on Twitter, “This end result is a brief setback, and our dedicated fight to value women and babies is removed from over.”

The vote in Kansas, three months before the midterm elections, was the primary time American voters weighed in directly on the difficulty of abortion because the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade this summer.

The referendum, watched closely by national figures on either side of the abortion debate, took on added importance due to Kansas’ location, abutting states where abortion is already banned in nearly all cases. Greater than $12 million has been spent on promoting, split about evenly between the 2 camps. The amendment, had it passed, would have removed abortion protections from the State Structure and paved the way in which for legislators to ban or restrict abortions.

Ahead of the vote, which coincided with primary elections, Scott Schwab, the Republican secretary of state, predicted that around 36 percent of Kansas voters would participate, up barely from the first in 2020, a presidential election 12 months, though he later said there have been signs turnout can be much higher. His office said that the constitutional amendment “has increased voter interest within the election,” a sentiment that was palpable on the bottom.

“We’ve been saying that after a call is made in Washington, that the highlight would shift to Kansas,” said David Langford, a retired engineer from Leawood, Kan., who wanted the amendment to pass, and who reached out to Protestant pastors to rally support.

While Kansas has a history of voting for governors of each parties, the state almost all the time backs Republicans for president — Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964 was a notable exception. It’s a largely white state and plenty of Kansans discover as Christians, with a large evangelical constituency. Roman Catholic Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City, Kan., has long been a hero to many conservative Catholics for his ardent opposition to abortion, contraception and gay marriage.

The push for an amendment was rooted in a 2019 ruling by the Kansas Supreme Court that struck down some abortion restrictions and located that the best to an abortion was guaranteed by the State Structure. That call infuriated Republicans, who had spent years passing abortion restrictions and campaigning on the difficulty. They used their supermajorities within the Legislature last 12 months to put the difficulty on the 2022 ballot.

That state-level fight over abortion limits took on far greater meaning after the nation’s top court overturned Roe, opening the door in June for states to transcend restrictions and outlaw abortions entirely. The Roman Catholic Church and other religious and conservative groups spent heavily to back the amendment, while national supporters of abortion rights poured tens of millions of dollars into the race to oppose it.

Supporters of the amendment had said repeatedly that the amendment itself wouldn’t ban abortion, and Republican lawmakers were careful to avoid telegraphing what their legislative plans can be if it passed.

“Voting yes doesn’t mean that abortion won’t be allowed, it means we’re going to permit our legislators to find out the scope of abortion,” said Mary Jane Muchow of Overland Park, Kan., who supported the amendment. “I believe abortion must be legal, but I believe there must be limitations on it.”

If the amendment had passed, though, the query was not whether Republicans would attempt to wield their commanding legislative majorities to pass latest restrictions, but how far they’d go in doing so. Many Kansans who support abortion rights said they feared that a complete or near-total abortion ban can be passed inside months

Abortion is now legal in Kansas as much as 22 weeks of pregnancy.

“I don’t wish to grow to be one other state that bans all abortion for any reason,” said Barbara Grigar of Overland Park, who identified herself as a moderate and said she was voting against the amendment. “Alternative is every woman’s selection, and never the federal government’s.”

A Pew Research Center survey published last month found that a majority of Americans said abortion must be legal in all or most cases, and that greater than half of adults disapproved of the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe.

Kansas has been a focus of the national abortion debate not less than since 1991, when protesters from across the country gathered in Wichita and blocked access to clinics during weeks of heated demonstrations that they called the Summer of Mercy.

At times, the state has seen violence over the difficulty. In 1986, a Wichita abortion clinic was attacked with a pipe bomb. In 1993, a girl who opposed abortion shot and injured Dr. George Tiller, considered one of only a number of American physicians who performed late-term abortions. In 2009, one other anti-abortion activist shot and killed Dr. Tiller at his Wichita church.

Lately, and particularly within the weeks since Roe fell, Kansas has grow to be a haven of abortion access in a region where that’s increasingly rare.

Even before the Supreme Court’s motion, nearly half of the abortions performed in Kansas involved out-of-state residents. Now Oklahoma and Missouri have banned the procedure in just about all cases, Nebraska may further restrict abortion in the subsequent few months, and ladies from Arkansas and Texas, where latest bans are in place, are traveling well beyond their states’ borders.

Kansas voters are generally conservative on many issues, but polling before the referendum suggested a detailed race and nuanced public opinions on abortion. The state just isn’t a political monolith: Besides its Democratic governor, a majority of Kansas Supreme Court justices were appointed by Democrats, and Representative Sharice Davids, a Democrat, represents the Kansas City suburbs in Congress.

Ms. Davids’s district was once a moderate Republican stronghold, but it surely has been trending toward Democrats in recent times. Her re-election contest in November in a redrawn district could also be probably the most competitive House races within the country, and party strategists expect the abortion debate to play a crucial role in districts like hers that include swaths of upscale suburbs.

Political strategists have been particularly attuned to turnout within the Kansas City suburbs, and are searching for to gauge how galvanizing abortion is, especially for swing voters and Democrats in a post-Roe environment.

“They’re going to see how one can advise their candidates to speak concerning the issue, they’re going to be every political handicap,” said James Carville, the veteran Democratic strategist. “Every campaign consultant, everybody is watching this thing prefer it’s the Super Bowl.”

Because the election approached, and particularly because the Supreme Court decision, rhetoric on the difficulty became more heated. Campaign signs on either side have been vandalized, police officials and activists have said. Within the Kansas City suburb of Overland Park, vandals targeted a Catholic church, defacing a constructing and a statue of Mary with red paint.

Before the vote on Tuesday, which coincided with primary elections, Scott Schwab, the Republican secretary of state, predicted that around 36 percent of Kansas voters would participate, up barely from the first in 2020, a presidential election 12 months. His office said that the constitutional amendment “has increased voter interest within the election,” a sentiment that was palpable on the bottom.

“I just like the women’s rights,” said Norma Hamilton, a 90-year-old Republican from Lenexa, Kan. Despite her party registration, she said, she voted no.

Elizabeth Dias contributed reporting.

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