It was a surprise setback for the pro-life movement in Kansas. Voters in the conservative state rejected a ballot measure Tuesday that would have allowed the Republican-controlled legislature to tighten restrictions on abortion or ban it outright.
President Joe Biden praised Kansans for voting no. “This vote makes clear what we know: the majority of Americans agree that women should have access to abortion and should have the right to make their own health care decisions,” Biden said in a statement.
Pro-life Kansans had hoped voters would approve a proposed constitutional amendment overriding a 2019 state Supreme Court decision that declared abortion to be a fundamental right.
"This is really about Kansans taking back their constitution, taking back their ability to place even the most basic restrictions on the abortion industry," said Brittany Jones, director of Policy and Engagement at Kansas Family Voice on Tuesday.
Former Kansas Republican Governor and Senator Sam Brownback said the state's 2019 high court ruling was a mistake.
"This Kansas Supreme Court has determined that there's a right to an abortion in the Kansas constitution and it's not there," he said.
Brownback and others in the Kansas pro-life coalition said misinformation contributed to their defeat.
"Opponents used scare tactics like you couldn't treat an ectopic pregnancy or use IVF," he said. "Life must be protected. We fight on defending all life."
Both sides invested heavily in the vote, pouring more than $14 million into their campaigns.
The nation watched closely as well as the vote marked the first opportunity for a state to weigh in on abortion since the U.S. Supreme Court's Dobbs ruling in June that overturned Roe v Wade.
Brownback told CBN News he's concerned that the amendment's defeat will pave the way for abortion-minded women in neighboring states that ban it to come to Kansas.
Toni Sluga, a pro-life voter, said she's worried about what will happen. "We just don't want Kansas to become the abortion capital of the country," she said.
Kansas currently allows most abortions until the 22nd week of pregnancy.
Pro-life advocates had hoped that the passage of the amendment would allow state lawmakers to pass abortion restrictions.
"We haven't been able to pass a pro-life law in Kansas since 2018 because of what our Supreme Court did," Jones noted. "Our legislature has little to no ability to place even the most basic regulations."
Other states are poised to vote on abortion this year. Kentucky will try to add similar language to its state constitution. Voters in Michigan and Vermont will consider abortion rights legislation.
Pro-life bioethicist Dr. Charlie Camosy says the Kansas vote could provide a valuable lesson for pro-life activists.
"It could perhaps be turned into a good thing if the pro-life movements wake up to the struggle which comes next," he said. "If you were lulled into a false sense of security post-Dobbs, that is now officially over."
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