Voters in Kansas on Tuesday rejected a proposed constitutional amendment that would have allowed the Republican-dominated state Legislature to restrict or ban abortions in the state, negating a 2019 state Supreme Court decision upholding abortion rights in the state. The Associated Press and other news organizations projected the amendment's defeat at 9:40 p.m. local time on Tuesday night, and the main pro-amendment group conceded their loss about 20 minutes later.
With 86 percent of the vote counted, the amendment was going down to defeat 60 percent to 40 percent. "The referendum in the conservative state was the first test of U.S. voter sentiment about abortion rights since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June," AP reports. Amendment supporters and opponents spent more than $14 million on their campaigns.
Kansas allows abortion up to 22 weeks of pregnancy, and the state Supreme Court locked that into place that by ruling that the Kansas Constitution guarantees the right to bodily autonomy and therefore the right to terminate a pregnancy. The unexpectedly decisive rejection of Tuesday's amendment effectively cements that status quo, making Kansas one of only three states in the Midwest that can't or are unlikely to ban abortions, The Topeka Capital-Journal reports.
"Lawmakers controversially placed the measure on the August primary ballot, a move that was criticized, as the primary election typically turns out an electorate that is more conservative and has fewer Democrat and unaffiliated voters," the Capital-Journal reports. "But voter registration soared statewide in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court decision," and Kansas Secretary of State Scott Schwab predicted that turnout could wind up matching the record voting numbers from the 2008 presidential election.
Urban and several rural counties rejected the amendment, and the narrow majorities of "yes" votes in solidly conservative counties was not enough to tip the balance.
"The overwhelming support for abortion rights in a traditionally conservative state bolsters Democrats' hopes that the historic Supreme Court ruling will animate their voters in an otherwise difficult election year for their party," The Washington Post reports. Abortion opponents will have their next shot at reviving the issue as soon as November, The Wichita Eagle reports, when they'll "attempt to oust members of the Supreme Court that declared abortion to be a right."