First US state in Kansas to vote on abortion rights since Supreme Court ruling

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Currently, abortion is legal in Kansas up to 22 weeks. (representative)

United States:

Campaign signs line the tree-lined streets of the affluent Kansas town of Leawood as the Midwestern state prepares to hold its first major abortion vote since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned state law on the procedure. .

Kansans will go to the polls on Tuesday to decide whether to amend the traditionally conservative state’s constitution to remove language guaranteeing the right to abortion.

Proponents of the change – “Yes” voters – say it would allow lawmakers to regulate the procedure without judicial intervention.

“It just restores our ability to carry on a conversation,” said Mackenzie Haddix, a spokeswoman for the Value Them Both campaign seeking an end to protections — which stems from a 2019 Kansas Supreme Court decision.

“The people of Kansas can then come together … to come to a consensus,” she told AFP at a meeting on Saturday morning.

Banning abortion is not the official goal of Value Them Both.

But in the opposing camp, activists see the campaign as a thinly veiled effort to pave the way for a complete ban by the Republican-dominated state legislature — following in the footsteps of at least eight other U.S. states since the Supreme Court’s ruling in June.

Proponents are nervously watching neighboring states of Oklahoma and Missouri, which have enacted near-total bans — the latter making no exceptions for rape or incest — while the Midwestern state of Indiana passed its own rigid ban on Saturday.

And in Kansas itself, a conservative state legislator this year introduced a bill banning abortion without exception for rape, incest or maternal life, while citing a senator who told supporters he hopes eventually to pass a law on “life from the conception.”

Currently, abortion is legal in Kansas up to 22 weeks, with parental consent for minors.

“It really comes down to the amendment taking away the right to personal autonomy that all Kansans enjoy,” Ashley All, a spokeswoman for the Kansans ‘No’ campaign for Constitutional Freedom (KCF), told AFP.

“And it’s a right that we can make decisions about our bodies, about our families, about our future, without government interference,” she said.

First test

The vote, which coincides with the Kansas primary, will be the first opportunity for American voters to voice their views on abortion since the Supreme Court overturned the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling.

Other states, including California and Kentucky, will vote on the issue in November — at the same time as Congressional midterm elections, in which both Republicans and Democrats hope to mobilize supporters across the country around the issue of abortion.

Anne Melia, a volunteer with the pro-abortion rights KCF, went door-to-door in Leawood on Thursday night to plead her case.

“I don’t think the government should be telling women what to do,” the 59-year-old explained as she made her way across manicured lawns decorated with rival “Vote No” and “Vote Yes” signs.

Pat Boston, 85, a Leawood resident, said she voted early — and had marked “No” on her ballot.

In the same neighborhood, 43-year-old Christine Vasquez said she planned to vote ‘yes’ in the hopes that an abortion ban would be voted on in the future.

“I’m just looking to get back to the ballot for lawmakers and voters,” she told AFP. “I would vote for no abortion. I believe life begins at conception.”

‘Kansas is unique’

The Kansas outcome could be a boost or a blow to both sides of the highly charged debate over abortion in the US — and the nation’s eyes will be on the state on Tuesday.

In the United States, Democrats lean heavily for abortion rights, while conservatives generally support at least some restrictions.

But the picture in Kansas reveals a more complex political reality.

The state is heavily Republican and has not voted for a Democrat for president since 1964.

But Kansas’ most populous county elected a Democrat to the U.S. House in 2018, and the state’s governor, Laura Kelly, is a Democrat.

And when it comes to views on abortion, a 2021 study from Fort Hays State University found that less than 20 percent of respondents in Kansas agreed that abortion should be illegal even in cases of rape or incest.

Half believed that Kansas should not place restrictions on the conditions under which a woman can have an abortion.

So Melia, who has quit her job as an environmental consultant to devote more time to volunteering politically, isn’t quite sure what to expect on Tuesday.

“People want to oversimplify flyover country,” as the American Midwest is somewhat derisively called, she said. “I happen to think Kansas is unique.”

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and has been published from a syndicated feed.)



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