For the first time since a five-member majority of the US Supreme Court struck down the constitutional right to an abortion in late June, the future of abortion rights was on the ballot in Kansas. Literally.
The Tuesday Kansas primary election included an abortion ballot referendum with two options. Individuals could vote “yes” for a state amendment called Value Them Both, asserting there is no constitutional right to an abortion, which would not immediately change the state’s abortion laws, but make it easier for the state’s conservative legislature to pass abortion-restricting bills and bans in the future. Or, voters could opt for “no” on adding the amendment, which would affirm the state’s current abortion laws are explicitly protected by the Kansas constitution. With a mandatory 24-hour waiting period, ultrasound, and parent permission for minors, abortion is legal through 20 weeks post-fertilization.
In a contest that has been characterized as an early bellwether for how abortion will affect elections in a post-Roe world, Kansans, as of Wednesday morning, voted 59 to 41 against the ballot measure that state GOP leaders have been attempting for years and political pollsters had predicted would tip in their favour. The voter turnout in this summertime closed primary rivaled that of open general elections for Presidential races. In the 2020 general election, for example, 1,375,125 Kansans voted. For this 2022 primary, more than 908,000 ballots have been counted so far.