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The right to have an abortion has won in Kansas.
Voters Tuesday rejected a measure that would have amended the Kansas constitution to say it does not guarantee the right to abortion in the state. Late in the evening, the vote stood at 59 percent against the amendment, 41 percent in favor, the Associated Press reports.
This was the first popular vote on the issue since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June; Roe had guaranteed the right to abortion throughout the nation, and its reversal means states can ban or severely restrict access to the procedure.
"The voters in Kansas have spoken loud and clear: We will not tolerate extreme bans on abortion," said Rachel Sweet, campaign manager for Kansans for Constitutional Freedom, according to The New York Times. Her group led the fight against the amendment.
President Joe Biden issued this statement: "The Supreme Court's extreme decision to overturn Roe v. Wade put women's health and lives at risk. Tonight, the American people had something to say about it. Voters in Kansas turned out in record numbers to reject extreme efforts to amend the state constitution to take away a woman's right to choose and open the door for a state-wide ban. This vote makes clear what we know: the majority of Americans agree that women should have access to abortion and should have the right to make their own health care decisions.
"Congress should listen to the will of the American people and restore the protections of Roe as federal law. While that is the only way to secure a woman's right to choose, my Administration will continue to take meaningful action to protect women's access to reproductive health care. We will continue to act where we can to protect women's reproductive rights and access to care. And, the American people must continue to use their voices to protect the right to women's health care, including abortion." The U.S. House has passed a bill to write the provisions of Roe into federal law, and a similar bill has been introduced in the Senate, where passage will be more of an uphill climb.
Kansas is a majority-Republican state, so the amendment's defeat by such a large margin "came as a surprise, and after frenzied campaigns with both sides pouring millions into advertising and knocking on doors throughout a sweltering final campaign stretch," the Times notes.
With neighboring states enacting abortion bans, many people are traveling to Kansas to have the procedure. Within minutes of the decision overturning Roe, Missouri banned abortion except in cases of medical emergency. Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Texas also have severe abortion bans.
In 2019, the Kansas Supreme Court struck down some abortion restrictions in the state and found that the state constitution guaranteed the right to the procedure, therefore motivating the effort for the amendment. Those who campaigned for the amendment said it would not immediately ban abortions but would allow state legislators to act on the issue. Republican lawmakers have largely remained quiet about how strict a law they would seek, NPR notes.
The state has some restrictions that will stay in place despite the amendment's defeat. Abortions are banned after 22 weeks of pregnancy unless the pregnant person's life is threatened, and an ultrasound is required before the procedure.
With first the threat to Roe and then its reversal, several commentators have pointed out that abortion is indeed an LGBTQ+ issue. "The reality is, queer people do need abortions," Steph Black wrote in The Advocate. "People who can get pregnant are in relationships with people who can get them pregnant, regardless of their sexuality or gender identity. Queer and trans people who are pregnant still receive fatal diagnoses, and unfortunately, people can become pregnant by way of assault. Abortion is important, and our community needs access to it too."
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