I have to admit I was shocked this week when Kansas voters overwhelmingly voted to protect the right of women to have access to abortion in their state. After all, Kansas has been a red state long before Oklahoma turned bright red about 20 years ago. Only 13 governors out of 46, including current Gov. Laura Kelly, have been Democrats.
This first test of how Americans are reacting to the Supreme Court reversal of Roe v. Wade could be very telling in the months and years to come.
On Tuesday, Kansas voters rejected a measure that would have allowed their Republican-controlled Legislature to tighten abortion restrictions or possibly ban abortion completely. Proponents for a proposed amendment to the Kansas Constitution called it the “Value Them Both” proposition and tried to tout the measure as really not changing anything. However, it could have reversed a 2019 Kansas Supreme Court decision declaring abortion a “fundamental right” under the state’s Bill of Rights.
Kansas voters, however, have seen what is happening with abortion bans around the nation, particularly in very conservative states like theirs, and they rejected that fate for their own state.
I lived in Kansas for 14 years and had a good understanding of Kansas politics, and when I learned of this “Value Them Both” amendment, I thought it would likely prevail. However, it seems that even Red Kansas is seeing the abortion bans being imposed around the country as too extreme. This says something, and it’s something Republican leaders in states like Oklahoma should listen to.
All polls show that the majority of Americans believe women should have access to abortion. There is much emotion around the issue; however, most Americans believe that while some restrictions are necessary, outright bans on access are not. Kansas law starts restrictions at 22 weeks.
While many are hopeful the Kansas abortion vote will lead to a tsunami of revolt against the Supreme Court, I think it’s too soon to classify it that way. However, we’ll see how strong anti-abortion-access candidates fare in the general election in November. We’ll see how other states with abortion measures on their ballots fare.
But, it does give hope to those who are concerned about the shutdown of abortion access in many states across the country. And, it shows a way forward for those who believe abortion access – even with restrictions – should be protected.