Kansas voters back abortion rights
Vote seen as test case for hotly debated issue nationwide
Abortion rights advocates celebrated Tuesday as the midwestern US state of Kansas voted to maintain the right to the procedure, the first major poll on the flashpoint issue since the Supreme Court overturned nationwide access in June.
Kansans rejected an amendment that would have scrapped language in the state constitution guaranteeing the right to the procedure and could have paved the way for stricter regulations or a ban.
The vote was widely seen as a test case for abortion rights nationwide, as Republican-dominated legislatures rush to impose strict bans on the procedure following the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.
Pro-abortion rights campaigners and supporters celebrated the win for their side of the hotly contested US debate.
“I’m just beside myself,” campaign volunteer Anne Melia told AFP.
When polls closed at 7:00 pm (00:00 GMT), Kansas Secretary of State Scott Schwab said turnout was as high as 50 percent on this referendum, local media reported, a number usually expected for a general election.
Poll worker Marsha Barrett said some 250 voters had come to a station in the Kansas City suburb of Olathe by noon – the same number it might see all day in a presidential election.
“This election is crazy,” Barrett told AFP. “People are determined to vote.”
US President Joe Biden also hailed the result. “Tonight, Kansans used their voices to protect women’s right to choose and access reproductive health care,” he said on Twitter.
“It’s an important victory for Kansas, but also for every American who believes that women should be able to make their own health decisions without government interference.”
In a separate statement, he urged Congress to “listen to the will of the American people” and pass a bill codifying the right to abortion.
Other states including California and Kentucky are set to vote on the hot-button issue in November, at the same time as Congressional midterm elections in which both Republicans and Democrats hope to use it to mobilize their supporters nationwide.
In Kansas, the ballot centered on a 2019 ruling by the state’s supreme court that guarantees access to abortion.
In response, the Republican-dominated state legislature introduced an amendment known as “Value Them Both” that would have scrapped the constitutional right – with the stated aim of handing regulation of the procedure back to lawmakers.
The outcome in Kansas means that abortion will remain permitted up to 22 weeks of pregnancy.
Kansas leans heavily toward the Republican Party, which favors stricter abortion regulations, but a 2021 survey from Fort Hays State University found that fewer than 20 percent of Kansas respondents agreed that abortion should be illegal even in cases of rape or incest.