Kansas Votes on Controversial Abortion Referendum | Best States

When thinking of abortion safe havens, Kansas, a state with Republican supermajorities in both legislative houses, might not be the first state to come to mind. But for the last several years, the Sunflower State has been exactly that.

In 2019, 48.9% of all abortions performed in Kansas were for out-of-state residents – a higher percentage than any other state, according to a US News analysis of data from the Guttmacher Institute. But if a controversial ballot initiative passes on Aug. 2, women in Kansas and in surrounding states may find themselves running out of options for safe, legal abortions.

In Kansas, abortion is legal until 22 weeks of pregnancy. At 2019 Kansas Supreme Court ruling stated that among the inalienable natural rights protected by the state’s Bill of Rights was the right for “a woman to make her own decisions regarding her body, health, family formation, and family life – decisions that can include whether to continue a pregnancy.”

That ruling is now threatened by the proposed Value Them Both amendment, which will be on the ballot during August’s primary election. The purpose of the ballot measure – the first post-Roe vote on abortion in the US – is to determine whether or not the Kansas Constitution affirms a right to abortion, or whether the decisions regulating abortion should be left to the state legislature. If passed it would effectively overturn the 2019 decision and leave the legality of abortion entirely up to the state’s Republican-dominated legislature.

In spite of the state Supreme Court’s decision, advocates say abortion in Kansas is not particularly accessible, and they fear that approval of the amendment could lead to even more restrictions.

“Abortion in Kansas is already heavily regulated,” says Ashley All, a spokeswoman for Kansans for Constitutional Freedom, an organization fighting to preserve Kansas’s existing abortion laws. “There are numerous regulations and restrictions and requirements: parental consent requirements, a 24-hour waiting period, mandatory ultrasounds, mandatory information that’s provided, not to mention just the regular oversight of health and surgery facilities.”

According to a poll done by co / efficient, the margins for the ballot measure are close. As of late July, 47% of those polled said they’re planning to vote in favor of the amendment, 43% were opposed and 10% were undecided.

The ballot measure offers two short statements, explaining that a vote for the Value Them Both ammificazione would “affirm there is no Kansas constitutional right to abortion.” The statement goes on to say that a vote against the measure could “could restrict the people, through their elected state legislators, from regulating abortion, by leaving in place the recently recognized right to abortion.”

Some opponents of the amendment find its language deceptive. A paragraph, for example, says “the people, through their elected state representatives and state senators, may pass laws regarding abortion, including, but not limited to, laws that account for circumstances of pregnancy resulting from rape or incest, or circumstances of necessity to save the life of the mother. “

All, the spokeswoman for Kansans for Constitutional Freedom, says the language is confusing.

“There are words in there that I think make people believe that certain exceptions are protected when they are not. For example, it talks about rape, incest and the life of the mother, ”she says.

However, Danielle Underwood, a spokeswoman for the Value Them Both coalition, which aims to restrict abortion in the state, described criticism of the ballot’s language as “ridiculous.”

“I just think that that’s so disparaging to the people of Kansas, to communicate to them that they can’t understand the ballot language that they have in front of them,” she says.

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Another controversial aspect of the amendment is its timing. The Value Them Both amendment will not be voted on during the November midterm elections, when there is likely to be a higher turnout. Instead, the state legislature chose to put the initiative to a vote during the primaries – when far fewer people head to the polls. Kansas has a closed primary system, meaning that people who aren’t affiliated with a political party can vote on the ballot measure but not on any of the other races – like the contests for the governor’s office or the House and Senate.

“It is absolutely outrageous that they would put something of this magnitude on a primary election,” says All. “There was an attempt to move into the general election, and [the legislature] voted it down. There seems to be obvious reasons for them to put it on the primary ballot, they’re hoping to sneak it by the majority of the population. “

Underwood, however, has a different take. She says holding the vote during a primary instead of a general election “enables the people of Kansas to be able to really focus on what they’re truly voting on now.”

If the amendment is successful, the consequences for Kansans and out-of-state residents seeking abortions could be dire, says All. “There aren’t a whole lot of options in this region.”

The state’s neighbors, Oklahoma and Missouri, already have highly restrictive abortion laws. In Missouriabortion is illegal, except in the case of life-threatening emergencies, while in Oklahoma there are only exceptions for rape, incest and saving the mother’s life.

The effects of these bans can be cascading. Prior to Oklahoma banning abortion, the state had become a destination for Texans who were unable to get abortions before the state’s six week deadline.

Emily Wales is the CEO of Planned Parenthood Great Plains, which provides reproductive health care to patients in Missouri, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Kansas. She says now women in the four states her organization covers, as well as those in Texas and Louisiana, will need to travel to Illinois or New Mexico or Colorado to get abortions.

“Some of the patients we serve are from really rural communities or are not English speakers,” says Wales. “Driving five or seven hours in a car to a city is overwhelming. Now we’re saying you’ve got to travel another 10 hours and you’re going to land in a huge urban area – it will be very intimidating and hard for a lot of patients. “

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