The affluent Kansas town of Leawood is filled with campaign signs as the state prepares to hold the first vote major on abortion since the US Supreme Court ended the national right to the procedure.
Kansans head to the polls Tuesday to decide whether to change the traditionally conservative state’s constitution to remove language guaranteeing the right to an abortion.
Those in favor of the change say it would allow legislators to regulate the procedure without judicial interference.
“It just simply restores our ability to have a conversation,” says Mackenzie Haddix, a spokeswoman for the Value Them Both campaign seeking an end to the protections—stemming from a 2019 decision by the Kansas supreme court.
Banning abortion is not the official goal of Value Them Both.
But in the opposing camp, activists see the campaign as a barely-masked bid to clear the way for an outright ban by the Republican-dominated state legislature—following in the footsteps of at least eight other US states since the Supreme Court’s ruling in June.
This year, a conservative state legislator in Kansan introduced a bill that would ban abortion with no exceptions for rape, incest, or the life of the mother, while a state senator was quoted as telling supporters he ultimately hopes to enact a law on “life starting at conception.”
Currently, abortion is legal in Kansas for up to 22 weeks, with parental consent required for minors.
The vote, scheduled to coincide with primary elections in Kansas, will be the first chance for US voters to register their views on abortion since the Supreme Court overturned the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling.
Anne Melia, a volunteer with the pro-abortion rights KCF, went door-to-door in Leawood Thursday night to make her case.
“I don’t think the government should be telling women what they should do,” the 59-year-old explained as she made her way across manicured lawns festooned with rival “Vote No” and “Vote Yes” signs.
The result in Kansas could represent a boost or a blow to either side of the highly charged abortion debate.
Across the United States, Democrats lean strongly in favor of abortion rights while conservatives generally favor at least some restrictions. A 2021 survey from Fort Hays State University found that fewer than 20 percent of Kansas respondents agreed that abortion should be illegal even in cases of rape or incest.
Half believed Kansas should place no restrictions on the circumstances under which a woman can get an abortion.
“People want to oversimplify flyover country,” as the Midwest is nicknamed, said a pro-choice advocate, “I happen to think Kansas is unique.”
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