Election results: Voters reject constitutional amendment

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Voters defeat abortion amendment in unexpected landsline

By Sherman Smith and Lily O’Shea Becker, Kansas Reflector

Kansas voters in a landslide Tuesday defeated a constitutional amendment that would have stripped residents of abortion rights, defying polling and political observers who expected a close result.
The ballot measure was failing by a 62-38 margin at 9:45 p.m. as voters responded to an intense and costly campaign marked by dubious claims by amendment supporters and the unraveling of protections by the U.S. Supreme Court.
The question before voters, in the form of a confusingly worded constitutional amendment, was whether to end the right to abortion in Kansas by voting “yes” or preserve the right by voting “no.”
The outcome could have far-reaching political implications, with a governor’s race and congressional seats on the ballot in November. It also means reproductive health care will remain available in a state where six girls younger than 14 were among nearly 8,000 patients who received an abortion last year.
“I’ve always maintained that a woman’s reproductive health care decisions should be between her and her physician,” said Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly, in a statement to campaign supporters. “I’m proud to say that Kansans stood up for our fundamental rights today.”
The proposed constitutional amendment is a reaction to a 2019 decision by the Kansas Supreme Court, which struck down a state law banning a common second-term abortion procedure. The court determined the right to bodily autonomy in the state constitution’s Bill of Rights includes the decision to terminate a pregnancy.
That meant abortion remained legal in Kansas when the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, allowing each state to determine its own rules for reproductive health care. Kansas attracted national attention as the first state to vote on abortion rights in the post-Roe world.
Voters showed up in unforeseen numbers in urban areas of the state, while rural areas underperformed compared to turnout in the presidential race two years ago. Forecasters with Cook Political Report and FiveThirtyEight predicted early in the evening that the amendment would fail, possibly by a double-digit margin.
Passage of the constitutional amendment would have nullified the Kansas Supreme Court ruling and given the Legislature the authority to pass any kind of abortion restriction, without exceptions for rape, incest or a patient’s health. The amendment’s defeat means abortion will continue to be legal — and heavily regulated — in Kansas.
Annual reporting from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment shows that a typical abortion in Kansas involves a woman of color between the ages of 20 and 30 who lives in Kansas or Missouri and is unmarried, already has at least one child, has never had an abortion before, is less than nine weeks from gestation and uses the drug mifepristone to terminate her pregnancy.
Because of existing restrictions, which remain in place even if the amendment fails, she has received state-ordered counseling designed to discourage her from having an abortion, waited at least 24 hours, looked at an ultrasound image and pays for the procedure out of her own pocket.
No abortions occurred outside of 22 weeks, the legal threshold except in cases where the mother’s life is in danger.