Kansans will vote on the first abortion-related measure on August 2 following SCOTUS ruling

On August 2, Kansans will decide on a constitutional amendment to state that nothing in the Kansas Constitution creates a right to abortion or requires government funding for abortion. It would also say that the legislature has the authority to pass laws regarding abortion. 

In 2019, the Kansas Supreme Court ruled that the Kansas Bill of Rights “affords protection of the right of personal autonomy, which includes the ability to control one’s own body, to assert bodily integrity, and to exercise self-determination. This right allows a woman to make her own decisions regarding her body, health, family formation, and family life—decisions that can include whether to continue a pregnancy.”

The amendment was first introduced during the 2020 legislative session, but it did not receive the necessary votes to make it on the ballot. It was re-introduced in the 2021 legislative session, where it passed each chamber with the necessary two-thirds supermajority vote. The vote was along party lines—Republicans supported and Democrats opposed the amendment.

Value Them Both is leading the campaign in support of the amendment. Following the Dobbs ruling, the campaign said, “The U.S. Supreme Court restored the people’s ability to come to individual consensus on abortion limits — but not in Kansas. As it stands today, unelected judges in Kansas are the ones who will decide the fate of abortion limits. The Value Them Both Amendment is a reasonable approach and will ensure Kansas does not remain a permanent destination for the most extreme and painful abortion procedures.”

The campaign reported over $6 million in contributions as of July 18, 2022. The campaign has been endorsed by U.S. Sen. Roger Marshall (R), former U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (R), the Family Policy Alliance of Kansas, and the Kansas Catholic Conference. 

Kansans for Constitutional Freedom is leading the campaign in opposition to the amendment. The campaign reported over $7.4 million in contributions. The campaign has received endorsements from Gov. Laura Kelly (D), U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D), the American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas, and Planned Parenthood Great Plains Votes. 

Gov. Kelly (D) said,”[A]nybody who’s been alive in Kansas in the last six months knows that we have an amendment on the primary ballot that would essentially overturn the (state) Supreme Court ruling and say that women’s reproductive rights are not protected under the constitution. If people in the state of Kansas vote no on that amendment, then the status quo will remain. And women’s reproductive rights will remain constitutional here in the state of Kansas.”

In Kansas, abortion is prohibited after 22 weeks, except in cases of life or health endangerment. Kansas also requires a licensed physician to perform an abortion, an ultrasound before, a 24-hour waiting period after state-directed counseling, and parental consent for minors seeking an abortion.

This will be the first vote of at least five abortion-related ballot measures appearing on statewide ballots in 2022. Like Kansas, voters in Kentucky will decide on a constitutional amendment saying that nothing in the state constitution provides a right to abortion.

In California and Vermont, voters will decide on constitutional amendments to provide explicit rights related to abortion. In Vermont, the Legislature placed an amendment on the ballot to provide that individuals have a state constitutional right to personal reproductive autonomy. Currently, the right to an abortion is provided by state statute in Vermont. California voters will see an amendment on their ballots in November that passed the state legislature after the Dobbs ruling. It would provide that the state cannot “deny or interfere with an individual’s reproductive freedom in their most intimate decisions,” including decisions to have an abortion or to choose or refuse contraceptives. Voters in Michigan could also vote on an initiative providing a state constitutional right to abortion.

Montana voters will decide on a legislatively referred law to require medical care for infants born alive after an induced labor, cesarean section, attempted abortion, or another method. It would also classify them as legal persons under state law.

Since 1970, there have been 47 abortion-related ballot measures, and six of these were ballot measures designed to provide that state constitutions cannot be interpreted to establish a state constitutional right to abortion. Voters approved four (66.7%) and rejected two (33.3%) of these six ballot measures. Amendments were rejected in Massachusetts (1986) and Florida (2012). Amendments were approved in Alabama (2018), Louisiana (2020), Tennessee (2014), and West Virginia (2018).

In Kansas, most polls are open from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. Central Time, as Kansas mandates in its state laws that the polls must be open a minimum of 12 hours. Counties may open the polls earlier and close them later.

Additional reading:

Kansas 2022 ballot measures