How Conservative Kansas Won the Right to Abortion

For abortion rights activists, the fact that a large majority of Kansas voters on Tuesday rejected a ballot measure that would allow Republican lawmakers to restrict or outlaw the procedure is not just a windfall in this conservative state.

This is the roadmap for future battles.

Activists say their campaign — the first major public scrutiny of abortion rights since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the constitutional right to abortion in June — provides lessons for protecting abortion rights across the country.

“There is a way to fight back,” said Emily Wales, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood Great Plains. “We want to tell people who live in disenfranchised states, who feel defeated, that Kansas is showing that it can be done. And it doesn’t have to be a completely progressive state.”

The ballot measure would have removed the right to abortion from the state constitution, but 59% of voters rejected it, a result that suggests Republicans are facing major political backlash over the repeal of Roe v. USA. Wade ahead of the midterm elections this November.

Anti-abortion activists say the results in Kansas suggest their supporters may have calmed down after the Supreme Court ruling.

Penny Nancy, president of the anti-abortion group Concerned Women for America, says their opponents now look more energetic.

“We still have a lot of hard work to do,” she said.

Meanwhile, jubilant abortion rights activists issued their own scathing warnings that Democrats should not take this newfound commitment for granted.

“Did this decision anger people and encourage them to come out and do something? Yes,” said Cristina Uribe, director of advocacy and policy strategy for the Action Fund for Gender Equality. “Will it be a translation [into] vote for the Democratic nominee? I dont know.”

in Kansas where registered Republicans and independent voters outnumber DemocratsAbortion rights activists have been working overtime in recent months to build a broad coalition using the language of personal freedom and individual rights.

“We found common ground between different voting blocs and mobilized people across the political spectrum to vote no,” Rachel Sweet, Kansas Campaign Leader for Constitutional Freedom, told reporters Wednesday.

“Cansanese from across the political spectrum believe in personal liberty and liberty,” she said. “They understand that we must protect our constitutional rights and freedom to make private medical decisions, including those relating to abortion.”

The campaign against the measure attracted not only abortion rights groups such as Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union, but also the League of Women Voters of Kansas, the Mainstream Coalition, and other groups who tailored their messages to moderate conservatives and independents. It also included Catholics for selection and more than 70 state religious leaders.

In one announcement, Kansas for Constitutional Freedom called the measure “strict government mandate designed to interfere with private medical decisions” and featured images that linked abortion restrictions to mandatory vaccines and masks.

“We need to be able to have conversations with people who disagree with us or perhaps disagree with us on every point, but share the common goal of protecting people’s personal autonomy, their constitutional rights to make those decisions for themselves,” said Ashley All, Group Communications Director.

The measure appeared on the ballot at the same time as the primary races for congressional seats. Supporters and opponents knocked on tens of thousands of doors and spent millions of dollars on advertising, and the turnout of almost half of the state’s registered voters was unprecedented in a Kansas primary.

Abortion rights won a large majority in the suburbs of Kansas City, but also gained more support than expected in the more rural and conservative parts of the state.

At least half of the Kansans who voted Tuesday had never voted in a primary before. Early voters were overwhelmingly women and most likely Democrats, said Tom Bonier, CEO of TargetSmart, a Democratic firm that specializes in political data.

“It’s clear that women just participated more actively in these elections, and this led to a much higher turnout,” he said.

After the Supreme Court overturned Roe vs. Wade June 24 in Kansas saw a big change in who registers to vote, with more women and Democrats added to the voter roll, Bonier said.

The result reflected what polls have long shown: a majority of Americans support the right to have an abortion. In the bench interview published last month, 61% said abortion should be legal in all or most cases, and more than half of respondents said they disapproved of the Supreme Court’s decision.

The result is contrary to the recent trend in states with a Republican bias. Over the past eight years, voters in Louisiana, Alabama, West Virginia and Tennessee have approved amendments that provide that their states do not protect abortion rights, said Elizabeth Nash, a policy analyst at Washington’s Guttmacher Institute.

The Supreme Court decision has already led to the loss of the right to abortion in the states of the South and the Midwest. It also brought a flood of news about difficult cases, including women whose doctors refused to perform abortions even when their fetus died or their pregnancy was not viable, and the saga of a 10-year-old Ohio rape victim who had to leave the state to get abortion.

“It’s important to see that things could have changed,” Nash said. “Essentially, the rubber is on its way. Now it’s a reality that there is no federal protection for abortion rights, and people are seeing the problem in a way they didn’t see six months or a year ago.”

However, a key question for political activists and pundits on both sides of the conflict is whether the political backlash against the court’s ruling will spill over into the midterm elections.

Four states – Kentucky, California, Michigan and Vermont – will vote on measures related to abortion. In many other states, the issue will loom amid key races as voters decide how to weigh candidates’ stance on abortion versus their positions on other issues.

Some abortion rights advocates say the Kansas result shows that Democrats, even in conservative states, should not shy away from the issue of abortion but should make it the central platform of their campaigns.

“If they lead on this, they have an opportunity to draw voters across the aisle and generate a surge of enthusiasm in their own base, which, frankly, you won’t see in the midterms,” said Mini Timmaraju, president of NARAL Pro. – America’s Choice. Grassroots members and organizers of the group knocked on over 1,200 doors, made over 30,000 phone calls, and sent 5,000 text messages in Kansas.

Sarah Longwell, a Republican strategist who conducts focus groups with voters across the country, says it’s unclear how much voters will prioritize abortion when there are so many other issues on their minds.

“If you ask an open question about what will matter to you before the election, people will say the economy,” she said. “But when you ask people specifically about abortion, we see that they get very excited. Even people who call themselves supporters of life say that a complete ban on abortion is too far.”

She said it was now the responsibility of the Democrats to use the issue as an opportunity to galvanize a party that many expected would lose control of Congress in the November election.

“It’s not enough to just have a problem,” she said. “You should file a criminal case.”

Anti-abortion opponents are also looking to Kansas as they decide whether to promote a hardline anti-abortion platform or take a more moderate stance.

“Voters faced with what they see as a choice between two flawed abortion policies—too restrictive and too permissive—will choose the too liberal one,” said Ed Whelan, a research fellow at the Center for Ethics and Public Policy in New York. Washington. “The opponents of life must meet with voters where they are.”

Concerned Women for America’s Nancy said that despite the setback in Kansas, the drive to outlaw abortion remains a major cause for Republicans, and noted that abortion rights groups, while strong, still have a long way to go. catch up.

“The other side will finally have to do what we’ve been doing for the last 50 years – put together a ground game, put [communication plans] together, raise money, speak to the voters and work towards what they want,” she said. “We did it all the time.”

To critics who say the anti-abortion movement has gone too far since the Supreme Court ruling, Nancy said that remains to be decided in the upcoming election. Instead of re-evaluating legislative strategy, she emphasized organizing on the ground.

“We’re going to have to fight for it, especially in some of the more purple states,” she said. “I’m so happy to go do the deed.”