Abortion rights: Will conservative states go the way of Kansas?

Roe's invalidation c. Wade by the United States Supreme Court was a blow to abortion rights advocates. But, since, the first referendum on the question took place, in Kansas. And its result, important and unequivocal, gives a breath of hope to those who act to preserve this right to the country.

“The resounding rejection of the constitutional amendment is striking because the state legislature is overwhelmingly anti-abortion,” said University of Kansas law professor Richard E. Levy. Two-thirds of lawmakers in each chamber approved the amendment, but 60% of voters rejected it. »

“Value Them Both”

The “Value Them Both” amendment made it onto the Aug. 2 primary ballot after being passed by the Republican-dominated 2021 state legislature. It sought to remove the right to abortion enshrined in the Kansas Constitution, and a vote in favor would have paved the way for a ban or stricter regulation Currently, abortion is legal in Kansas up to 22 weeks of pregnancy, and parental permission is required for minors.

Kansas is a state that leans on the red side and is known to be very conservative. The result is therefore important, especially given the very high turnout, 50% according to preliminary figures, a sign that the issue is mobilizing the population and that there could be a rift between it and the elected officials. Turnout is generally anemic when voting in primary elections.

“With these results, we see the trend that we saw in the polls at the national level being transposed. About 60% of voters are for the maintenance of the right to abortion in the United States”, indicates Andréanne Bissonnette, researcher in residence at the Observatory on the United States of the Raoul-Dandurand Chair.

“It's not as stark a divide as you see in Washington or in state legislatures between Republicans and Democrats,” she adds, noting that this is an issue. much more nuanced among the population than among politicians. “We see that even on the side of Republican voters, there is opposition to a complete withdrawal of the right to abortion,” she underlines.

Impact on other states

The Kansas referendum result sends the wrong signal to Republicans in the other US states: it supports the thesis that the issue of abortion is potentially against them in the next midterm elections, and the Democrats are currently driving the point home.

“Kansas voters have sent a strong message: this fall, Americans will vote to preserve this right,” said President Joe Biden in particular during an intervention at the White House on Wednesday.

He called “extremists” elected Republicans who are trying “to ban all abortions in all states”. “They have no idea the power of American women, but last night in Kansas they were able to take the measure of it,” he continued, before signing his second executive order in a month, intended to reduce the possible effects of the Supreme Court's about-face.

Kentucky and Montana will be particularly watchable this fall. In these two states, voters will be called upon to vote on measures going against the right to abortion.

The result in Kansas could therefore be an indication of which side voters in those two states might lean towards.

The Kansas ballot could also inspire elected Democrats elsewhere in the country. “Will in other states, elected Democrats adopt the strategy of proposing amendments or laws by referendum to protect the right to abortion? asks Andréanne Bissonnette. In particular, there will be referendums in this direction this year in California and Vermont.

She specifies that the result of the referendum in Kansas could also have an impact on the debates of the other assemblies which wish to prohibit abortion.

Women or doctors?

Added to this is the fact that Kansas is surrounded by states that have already restricted the right to abortion or could do so. “Women from neighboring states that prohibit abortion could come to Kansas,” says Richard E. Levy. The question then would be whether those states can punish women who have abortions in the state, or punish Kansas doctors who perform abortions for women in those states. »

Another thing to watch out for will be whether people in those states could be found complicit if they help a woman who wants to travel to Kansas to get an abortion.

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