Kansas voters on Tuesday rejected a state constitutional amendment that would have declared there is no right to abortion, according to Decision Desk HQ.
"Decision Desk HQ projects the 'Value Them Both Amendment' will not pass in Kansas. Race call: 9:47pm EDT," Newsmax's election results partner tweeted Tuesday night.
Kansas voters delivered a victory to abortion rights advocates in a deeply conservative state.
"The vote, which comes just over a month after the U.S. Supreme Court revoked federal abortion rights, demonstrates once again that voters across the country do not want politicians interfering in their health care decisions," Planned Parenthood Action wrote in a statement Tuesday night.
The vote was the first statewide referendum on abortion since the Supreme Court overturned the Roe v. Wade decision in June. The ballot question drew national attention as an early indicator of whether abortion rights will motivate voters in November's midterm elections.
The amendment's failure will prevent Kansas' Republican-led legislature from passing severe abortion restrictions without violating the state constitution.
It will also preserve a key abortion access point in America's heartland. Patients travel to Kansas for abortions from Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri and other states that have banned the procedure almost entirely since the Supreme Court overturned Roe, the 1973 case that legalized abortion nationwide.
Kansas' Supreme Court ruled in 2019 that the state constitution protected abortion rights. As a result, Kansas has maintained more lenient policies than other conservative neighbors.
The state allows abortion up to 22 weeks of pregnancy with several additional restrictions including a mandatory 24-hour waiting period and mandatory parental consent for minors.
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 – currently up to the 22-week stage of pregnancy.
In response, the Republican-dominated state legislature introduced an amendment known as "Value Them Both" that would scrap the constitutional right – with the stated aim of handing regulation of the procedure back to lawmakers.
In the opposing camp, activists saw the campaign as a barely masked bid to clear the way for an outright ban – one state legislator has already introduced a bill that would ban abortion without exceptions for rape, incest, or the mother's life.
For Ashley All, spokeswoman for pro-abortion rights campaign Kansans for Constitutional Freedom, the amendment would deal a blow to "personal autonomy."
Activists also complain that the phrasing of the ballot question is counterintuitive, and potentially confusing: voting "Yes" to the amendment means abortion rights being curbed, while people who wish to keep those rights intact must vote "No."
First-time voter Morgan Spoor knew she wanted to vote "no" to support "the right to choose."
"I really want my word out there, especially as a female," the 19-year-old told AFP. "I don't think anyone can say what a woman can do with their body."
Abortion rights advocates in Kansas are looking nervously to neighboring Oklahoma and Missouri, which are among at least eight states to have passed near-total bans – the latter making no exceptions for rape or incest – while Midwestern Indiana adopted its own rigid ban on Saturday.
Kara Miller Karns, a voter in Leawood, said she planned to vote for the status quo on Tuesday, saying it was "not acceptable" for her daughters to grow up with fewer rights than she did.
But in the same Kansas neighborhood, 43-year-old Christine Vasquez said she planned to back the constitutional amendment -- in hope it would clear the way for a future vote on an abortion ban.
"I believe that life starts at conception," she told AFP ahead of the ballot.
The outcome in Kansas could mean a boost or a blow to either side of the highly charged abortion debate.
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.
Information from Reuters and AFP was used throughout this report.
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