Saturday, August 6, 2022

The Kansas result offers activists a blueprint to oppose abortion restrictions

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Activists said that even counties that voted strongly for Donald Trump voted to keep abortion, showing how far the Supreme Court departs from mainstream American values

Six weeks after Roe v Wade was tipped, Kansas has given pro-choice activists hope on how to fight back — and a way to do it.

In the first election test since the Supreme Court overturned the national right to abortion, the staunchly conservative state voted by a large majority against a constitutional amendment that would have effectively banned the procedure.

The magnitude of the victory was overwhelming: 59 percent voted in favor of upholding abortion rights versus 41 percent against.

But the fact that it happened in Kansas is perhaps the most striking part of it all.

The state is so reliably Republican that the last Democratic president he voted for was Lyndon Johnson in 1964.
Two years ago, Donald Trump beat President Joe Biden by 15 points despite losing elections in the rest of the country.

Registered Republicans far outnumber Democrats in Kansas, and pro-choice activists have tailored their message to them.

And this is where the Democrats can find most consolation: on this issue, they find common ground even with their political opponents.

Her ads appealed to conservative values, including a Catholic grandmother who said she herself is not pro-abortion but “doesn’t want the government to make that decision” for her granddaughter.

Another ad from the pro-choice site talked about how a hiatus would give the government “more power over your privacy and your personal medical decisions.”

A third featured a pastor who said he did not want “to replace religious freedom with government control.”

If you didn’t know the context of these ads you would assume they were Republican and they clearly worked.

Even counties strong for Mr Trump voted to keep abortion, activists knocking on doors after the result was announced said. Leavenworth County, for example, voted 61 percent to 39 percent to keep abortion, even though Mr. Trump won there two years ago by 21 percent.

The vote echoes national polls that show the Supreme Court is at odds with Americans’ attitudes toward abortion.

While the Conservative majority in the court voted 5-2 to abolish Roe v Wade, the latest CNN poll found that 63 percent of Americans disapproved of the decision. Of these, 51 percent rejected “strongly”, a sign of deep uneasiness about the opinion.

The wording of the Kansas state constitution amendment, known as Amendment 2, was complicated, even if the message to voters was clear.

The text asked whether Kansans wanted to remove the state’s constitutional protections against abortion, meaning that a “yes” vote would have removed the protections. A “no” would have allowed women to get the procedure further.

Protections have existed since 2019, when the Kansas state Supreme Court overturned some abortion restrictions and found that the right to the procedure is guaranteed by the state constitution.

The ruling has become even more relevant since Roe v Wade was overturned when the Supreme Court said it should be up to individual states to decide.

Voters on both sides were energetic and 870,000 voted in favor of the measure, which came on the same day as the state primary.

That number is close to the 887,000 who voted in the 2014 general election, when many more people usually turn out to vote.

It is also just under 50 percent of all voters, well above forecasts of a mid-30 percent turnout.

More than $12million (£10million) was spent on advertising, split roughly evenly between the two sides, but an enormous number as there were no candidates running for office.

Mr. Biden was right to have a victory lap, saying the result “makes it clear” that most people want to protect abortion.

The vote is the first of several such polls that amount to a referendum on abortion, with more planned for California and Vermont in November, and Michigan may also vote on the issue.

The result is being watched with excitement in states like Florida, where Republicans are urging Gov. Ron DeSantis, a potential presidential nominee for 2024, to take even further action on abortion.

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