US state votes to maintain abortion rights in test case

Published August 4, 2022
Abortion supporters react to the failed constitutional amendment proposal at the Kansas Constitutional Freedom Primary Election Watch Party in Overland Park, Kansas.—AFP
Abortion supporters react to the failed constitutional amendment proposal at the Kansas Constitutional Freedom Primary Election Watch Party in Overland Park, Kansas.—AFP

OLATHE: Abortion rights advocates celebrated on 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 said.

When polls closed at 7pm, 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 said. “People are determined to vote.” 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.

‘Remarkable’ result

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.

In the opposing camp, activists said the campaign was a barely masked bid to clear the way for an outright ban — one state legislator had 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 result of Tuesday’s referendum was “remarkable.” “Kansans understood that this amendment would mandate government control over private medical decisions,” she said.

But voter Sylvia Brantley, 60, said earlier in the day she voted in favor of the change because she believes “babies matter, too.” She said she wanted to see more regulations, in the

hope that “Kansas will not be a marketplace for killing babies.”

Published in Dawn, August 4th, 2022

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