Campaign signs dot the tree-lined streets of wealthy Leawood, Kansas, as the Midwestern state prepares to hold the first major abortion vote since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled put an end to national procedural law.
Kansans 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.
Those in favor of the change – “Yes” voters – say it would allow lawmakers to regulate the process without judicial interference.
“It just restores our ability to have a conversation,” says Mackenzie Haddix, a spokesperson for the Value Them Both campaign seeking to end the protections – which stem from a 2019 Kansas Supreme Court ruling.
“The people of Kansas will then be able to come together (…) to reach a consensus,” she told AFP during a rally on Saturday morning.
Banning abortion is not the official goal of Value Them Both.
But on the opposite side, activists see the campaign as a thinly disguised attempt to pave the way for an outright ban by the Republican-dominated state legislature — following in the footsteps of at least eight other states. Americans since the Supreme Court ruling in June.
Advocates look nervously at neighboring Oklahoma and Missouri which have implemented near-total bans – the latter making no exceptions for rape or incest – while fellow Midwestern state Indiana, passed its own rigid ban on Saturday.
And in Kansas itself, a conservative state legislator introduced a bill this year that would ban abortion without exception for rape, incest, or the life of the mother, while a state senator reportedly told supporters that he hopes to eventually enact a law on “life from conception.”
Currently, abortion is legal in Kansas up to 22 weeks, with parental consent required for minors.
“It really comes down to the amendment that takes away that right to personal autonomy that all Kansans enjoy,” Ashley All, spokesperson for the “No” Kansans for Constitutional Freedom (KCF) campaign, told AFP. .
“And it’s a right that we are able to make decisions about our bodies, about our families, about our future, without government interference,” she said.
The vote, scheduled to coincide with the primary elections in Kansas, will be the first chance for American voters to voice their opinion on abortion since the Supreme Court overturned the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade.
Other states, including California and Kentucky, are expected to vote on the issue in November, alongside the midterm congressional elections in which Republicans and Democrats hope to rally their supporters nationwide around of the issue of abortion.
Anne Melia, a KCF volunteer for pro-abortion rights, went door-to-door in Leawood 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 walked through manicured lawns adorned with rival “Vote No” and “Vote Yes” signs.
Leawood resident Pat Boston, 85, said she had already voted early – and marked “No” on her ballot.
In the same neighborhood, Christine Vasquez, 43, said she planned to vote “Yes”, hoping to see a vote on banning abortion in the future.
“I’m just looking for it to come back to the vote of lawmakers and voters,” she told AFP. “I would vote for no abortions, I believe life begins at conception.”
“Kansas is unique”
The result in Kansas could mean a boost or a blow for either side of the highly charged abortion debate in the United States – and the eyes of the nation will be fixed on the state on Tuesday.
In the United States, Democrats lean heavily in favor of abortion rights while conservatives generally favor at least some restrictions.
But the Kansas picture reveals a more complex political reality.
The state leans 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 state Governor Laura Kelly is a Democrat.
And when it comes to views on abortion, a 2021 survey from Fort Hays State University found that less than 20% of Kansas respondents agreed that abortion should be illegal even when rape or incest.
Half believed Kansas should place no restrictions on the circumstances in which a woman can have an abortion.
And so Melia, who quit her job as an environmental consultant to devote more time to political volunteering, doesn’t know what to expect on Tuesday.
“People want to oversimplify flyover country,” as the American Midwest is derisively dubbed, she said. “I think Kansas is unique.”
(Except for the title, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)