Kansas votes to uphold access to abortion in state constitution

The referendum in Kansas is the first popular vote on abortion rights since the overturning of Roe v Wade by the US Supreme Court.

Kansas voted to protect abortion rights. In the pictures, people protesting for abortion rights, holding up a sign that reads
Image: Via Unsplash - Gayatri Malhotra

On Tuesday, Kansas citizens voted to protect their right to safe abortions in the state constitution. Kansas was the first state to hold a popular referendum on abortion rights since the US Supreme Court overturned Roe v Wade.

Kansas voters turned out in huge numbers to vote in a referendum brought forward by the Kansas Republican legislature to introduce measures that would have amended the constitution on the matter of abortion rights. Had the measures passed, the right to safe abortions would have been eliminated from the state constitution and it could have paved the way for lawmakers to pass abortion restrictions or bans.

This result represents a major win for abortion activists across the US, especially because it is the first popular vote after the Supreme Court overturned constitutional protections for abortion earlier in June. It will stand as proof of what the popular opinion is on the matter and is even more of a success because it happened in Kansas, a deeply conservative and usually Republican state.

Because neighbouring states are enacting abortion bans, with Missouri banning it except in cases of medical emergency and Oklahoma, Arkansas and Texas following suit, Kansas now represents a safe haven for abortion in the Midwest. Many people are already travelling to the state to access safe abortion.

After the results of the referendum were published, US President Joe Biden issued a statement, saying: “The Supreme Court’s extreme decision to overturn Roe v. Wade put women’s health and lives at risk. Tonight, the American people had something to say about it. Voters in Kansas turned out in record numbers to reject extreme efforts to amend the state constitution to take away a woman’s right to choose and open the door for a state-wide ban.”

He added, “This vote makes clear what we know: the majority of Americans agree that women should have access to abortion and should have the right to make their own health care decisions.”

Campaign manager for Kansans for Constitutional Freedom Rachel Sweet said that the victory was unexpected and commented: “We knew it was stacked against us from the moment we started but we did not despair – we did it, and these numbers speak for themselves”.

“We knocked tens of thousands of doors and had hundreds of thousands of phone calls … We countered millions of dollars in misinformation,” she affirmed. “We will not tolerate extreme bans on abortion in our state.”

The overturning of Roe v Wade was a pretty hard hit even beyond US borders. Fear spread across the globe, with people starting to wonder whether they would be the next to have their abortion rights stripped away as well. And apparently, such fear is not entirely unfounded as last month the UK removed a commitment to the protection of abortion and sexual health rights from a multi-nation statement.

The statement was produced during the International Ministerial Conference on Freedom of Religion or Belief (FoRB) and it was signed by 22 countries in its original version, which contained a commitment to repeal laws that “allow harmful practices, or restrict women’s and girls’ […] sexual and reproductive health and rights, bodily autonomy”. This part was later removed and the decision has already sparked outrage, with some countries such as Norway, Denmark and the Netherlands now refusing to sign the amended pact.

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