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Kansas Is US’s First State Since Supreme Court Decision To Vote On Abortion Rights

The referendum, which is timed to coincide with the Kansas primary elections, will be the first opportunity for US citizens to express their opinions on abortion since the Supreme Court overturned the seminal Roe v. Wade decided in 1973.

As the Midwest state is ready to hold the first significant abortion vote since the US Supreme Court ended the national right to the surgery, campaign banners are scattered along the tree-lined avenues of the wealthy Kansas town of Leawood.

Tuesday, Kansans will go to the polls to vote whether to amend the state’s constitution to remove wording ensuring the right to an abortion from the historically conservative state.

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Voters who voted “Yes” on the amendment claim that it will empower lawmakers to control the process without interference from the courts.

According to Mackenzie Haddix, a spokeswoman for the Value Them Both campaign, which is trying to repeal the protections stemming from a 2019 Kansas supreme court ruling, “It just simply restores our freedom to have a conversation.”

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

The stated objective of Value Them Both is not to outlaw abortion.

Activists on the other hand view the campaign as a flimsily disguised attempt to open the door for an outright ban by the Republican-controlled state legislature, following at least eight other US states since the Supreme Court’s decision in June.

Advocates are wary of the near-total prohibitions that adjacent states Oklahoma and Missouri have enacted, with Missouri allowing no exceptions for rape or incest, while fellow Midwestern state Indiana passed its own strict ban on Saturday.

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Meanwhile, a state senator was cited as telling supporters that he ultimately hopes to pass a legislation on “life starting at conception.” In Kansas, a conservative state legislator this year filed a plan that would outlaw abortion without making an exemption for rape, incest, or the mother’s life.

Currently, Kansas allows abortions up to 22 weeks, but minors must have their parents’ permission.

Ashley All, a spokesman for the “No” campaign Kansans for Constitutional Freedom (KCF), told AFP that it truly comes down to the amendment removing the right to personal autonomy that all Kansans enjoy.

And it is a right, she continued, “that we are free to make choices about our bodies, our families, and our futures without interference from the government.”

first test

The referendum, which is timed to coincide with the Kansas primary elections, will be the first opportunity for US citizens to express their opinions on abortion since the Supreme Court overturned the seminal Roe v. Wade decided in 1973.

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At the same time as the midterm elections for Congress, when both Republicans and Democrats want to galvanise their followers nationwide around the topic of abortion, other states, like California and Kentucky, are scheduled to vote on the matter.

On Thursday night, Anne Melia, a volunteer with the pro-abortion rights KCF, canvassed Leawood homes.

The 59-year-old woman was walking over trimmed lawns adorned with opposing “Vote No” and “Vote Yes” posters when she said, “I don’t think the government should be telling women what they should do.”

Pat Boston, an 85-year-old resident of Leawood, claimed to have voted early and put “No” on her ballot.

Christine Vasquez, 43, of the same area, said she intended to cast a “Yes” vote in the hopes that an abortion ban would eventually be put to a vote.

She told AFP, “I’m just hoping it comes back to the vote for politicians and constituents.” “I would vote against abortions because I think life begins at conception,” the voter said.

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‘Kansas is unique’

The vote in Kansas could give either side of the contentious US abortion debate a boost or a blow, so the entire country will be watching the state on Tuesday.

Democrats across the country tend to firmly support abortion rights, while conservatives typically support at least some limitations.

However, the situation in Kansas paints a more nuanced political reality.

The state has a strong Republican slant and hasn’t chosen a Democrat to be the next president since 1964.

However, the most populous county in Kansas chose a Democrat to serve in the US House in 2018, and Laura Kelly, the state governor, is a Democrat.

Less than 20% of Kansas respondents thought that abortion should be prohibited even in circumstances of rape or incest, according to a 2021 survey from Fort Hays State University.

Half felt that Kansas should have no restrictions on a woman’s ability to seek an abortion.

Melia, who left her job as an environmental consultant to spend more time participating in politics, is unsure of what to anticipate on Tuesday.

Flyover country, as the US Midwest is sometimes mockingly referred as, is being oversimplified, she said. I believe Kansas is distinctive.

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