Pro-life advocates in the Sunflower State asked for a change to their constitution. They want it to plainly say there’s no constitutional right for a pregnant woman to abort. The Kansas abortion amendment titled “Value Them Both” appeared on the primary ballot Tuesday, August 2 – and the people rejected it 59%-41%. The pro-choice folks, who still denounce the recent Supreme Court decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, now cheer. But that was the reason for the ruling all along – to let the issue be decided at the state level.
Kansas Abortion Amendment
“A vote for the Value Them Both Amendment would reserve to the people of Kansas, through their elected state legislators, the right to pass laws to regulate abortion because there is no Kansas constitutional right to abort or to require government funding of abortion,” the Kansas amendment read in part. “A vote against the Value Them Both Amendment would make no changes to the constitution of the state of Kansas and could prevent the people, through their elected state legislators, from regulating abortion in many circumstances. It would leave in place the newly discovered right to abortion first recognized in 2019.”
In 2019, the Kansas Supreme Court ruled that a woman’s right to terminate her pregnancy for any reason was enshrined in the first sentence of the first section of the Kansas Constitution’s Bill of Rights: “All men are possessed of equal and inalienable natural rights, among which are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” it states. The ruling explains:
“We are now asked: ‘Is this declaration of rights more than an idealized aspiration? And, if so, do the substantive rights include a woman’s right to make decisions about her body, including the decision whether to continue her pregnancy? We answer these questions, ‘Yes.’”
Value Them Both asked Kansans to overrule this decision via amendment by direct popular vote on a ballot issue. Instead, the people upheld the court’s interpretation by refusing to amend their constitution to explicitly contradict it.
An Issue of 50 Constitutions, Not One
Abortion will be on the ballot in four other states on November 8. Pro-life advocates in Kentucky are hoping to pass a similar amendment to their own constitution, and pro-choice folks in Vermont seek to establish “personal reproductive autonomy” as a right in theirs. In California, voters will decide whether Proposition 1 will forbid the state from denying or interfering with an individual’s “reproductive freedom in their most intimate decisions,” which, of course, includes abortions or whether to use contraceptives. In Montana, LR-131 would declare infants born alive at any state of development legal persons and require medical care to be provided to any infant who survives an abortion attempt.
Just those five states are handing the issue directly to the people this year. After the vote in Kansas, however, Democrats across the nation have refocused on abortion access as a campaign issue, and Democratic candidates for governor in Michigan and Pennsylvania have since cast themselves as standing firmly in the gap, ready to fend off abortion restrictions and bans. On the other side of the aisle, Republicans in both states have nominated candidates who support total bans without exception. With politicians on both sides of the debate drawing their lines in the sand, the issue may well be decided come November in each and every state – precisely where the Supreme Court said it should be.
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