Kansans took a huge victory for abortion rights in the US on Tuesday night when they voted to continue protecting abortion in the state constitution.
The race was convened by a host of American groups such as NBC News, the New York Times and Decision Desk HQ.
The move will be seen as a huge loss to the anti-abortion movement and a major victory for abortion rights advocates across America, who will see the result as a whistleblower to popular opinion.
Kansas – a very conservative and mostly reliable Republican state – is the first US state to put abortion rights to a vote since the US Supreme Court ruled in late June to overturn constitutional protections for abortion.
The state remains a safe haven for abortion in the Midwest, as one of the few states in the region where it remains legal to perform the procedure. Many other states have taken steps since June to make abortion largely illegal.
Kansas state senator Dinah Sikes, a Democrat, wept as the vote rolled in and turned to her friends and colleagues, goosebumps on her arm.
“It’s just great. It’s breathtaking that women’s voices were heard and we care about women’s health,” she told The Guardian, after admitting she thought the vote was getting close. “But we were close in a lot of rural areas and that really made all the difference – I’m just so grateful,” she said.
The ‘No’ campaign – which protected abortion rights – held a strong lead in the referendum with 62% of the majority vote votes counted. That means millions of dollars lost to the Catholic Church that contributed more than $3 million to eradicate abortion rights in Kansas, according to campaign finance data.
Kansans appeared to be voting in large numbers on Tuesday, in a referendum released by the Kansas Republican legislature that was criticized for being misleading, full of misinformation and voter suppression tactics.
After failing to get a more directly called referendum, “Kansas No State Constitutional Right to Abortion,” on the ballot in 2020, Republicans changed tactics, calling this amendment “Value Them Both.”
The vote was scheduled for August, when turnout is at an all-time low, especially among Independents and Democrats, and the ballot wording has been criticized for being unclear.
“The vote states a constitutional right of the state to fund abortion in Kansas, but that funding has never really been on the table,” Mary Ziegler, a U.S. abortion law expert from the University of California, Davis, told The Guardian.
Kansans for Life, one of the leading proponents of a yes vote, told churchgoers on July 27 that removing abortion protection in Kansas would prevent late abortions, lack of parental consent, and taxpayer funding for abortion, despite none of the above. is the law in Kansas. Abortions in Kansas are limited to 22 weeks in the case of life-threatening or severely compromised physical complications.
It was a tense and bitterly fought campaign that saw churches vandalized and yard signs stolen in a state where abortion doctor George Tiller was murdered in 2009 by anti-abortion activists.
But on Tuesday night, jubilation erupted at a waiting party for the victorious No campaign in Kansas City. “Were free!” shouted Mafutari Oneal, 56, who manned the bar after the vote was called and a flood of drink orders poured in.
“I don’t want a government telling me what to do. I am so happy,” she said.
In a speech just after the victory was sealed, Rachel Sweet, the Kansans for Constitutional Freedom campaign manager, said the victory had come against all odds.
“From the moment we started, we knew it was against us, but we didn’t despair — we did it, and these numbers speak for themselves,” Sweet said.
“We knocked on tens of thousands of doors and received hundreds of thousands of phone calls… We’ve countered millions of dollars of misinformation,” she said. “We will not tolerate an extreme ban on abortion in our state.”
Ashley All, the spokesperson for KCF, who co-led the ‘No’ campaign with Planned Parenthood and the ACLU, told the Guardian the key to boosting turnout was not to see abortion as a partisan issue in Kansas.
“We’ve been demonstrating the roots of the free state in Kansas,” she said. “It will be interesting for other states to look at this and see that this is not a partisan issue. Everyone from Republicans to unaffiliated voters to hardcore libertarians came out to say, ‘No, we don’t want the government involved in what we do with our bodies,’ she said.