03:19 - Source: CNN
Kansas to be first state to vote on abortion rights
Washington CNN  — 

Kansas on Tuesday will become the first state in the nation to let voters weigh in on abortion since the US Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.

The closely watched vote offers the first popular look at voter sentiment in the wake of the decision striking down Roe, which eliminated a federal right to abortion and sent the matter back to the states. It could also provide an indication of voter enthusiasm over the issue, which has risen to become a top focus in the midterms, particularly among Democrats.

Voters regardless of political affiliation will be asked whether to amend the state constitution to remove a protected right to abortion. The procedure is currently legal up to 22 weeks in Kansas, where people from Texas, Oklahoma and Missouri have traveled for services amid Republican-led efforts to roll back abortion rights.

The text of the Tuesday’s question reads: “Because Kansans value both women and children, the constitution of the state of Kansas does not require government funding of abortion and does not create or secure a right to abortion. To the extent permitted by the constitution of the United States, the people, through their elected state representatives and state senators, may pass laws regarding abortion, including, but not limited to, laws that account for circumstances of pregnancy resulting from rape or incest, or circumstances of necessity to save the life of the mother.”

A majority vote for “yes” would result in the state constitution being amended to say that it “does not require government funding of abortion and does not create or secure a right to abortion.”

While such a vote would not ban abortion, it would be up to the GOP-controlled state legislature to pass laws regarding the procedure, including ban on abortion at all stages of pregnancy without exceptions for rape and incest. And removing state constitutional protections would significantly curtail the ability of an individual to challenge a restrictive abortion measure.

“The amendment that is on the ballot will mandate government control over our private medical decisions and ultimately pave the way for a total ban on abortion,” said Ashley All, who is part of the coalition Kansans for Constitutional Freedom, which opposes the amendment.

A “no” vote would leave the state constitution unchanged, and abortions up to 22 weeks would remain legal. Lawmakers could still pass restrictive abortion laws, but the state would have to meet a higher threshold proving that it has a reason to enact the law in court.

Until now, the courts have recognized a right to abortion under the state constitution. Lawmakers had passed a restrictive abortion law in 2015 that would have banned the dilation and evacuation procedure, but it was permanently blocked by the courts.

When the Kansas state Supreme Court in 2019 ruled on the law, it said that the right to an abortion was protected under Section 1 of the Kansas constitution’s Bill of Rights, which reads, “All men are possessed of equal and inalienable natural rights, among which are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

The court said that Section 1 “affords protection of the right of personal autonomy, which includes the ability to control one’s own body” and that 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 coalition behind the amendment is Value Them Both, led by Kansans for Life, the Kansas Catholic Conference and Kansas Family Voice.

“Kansans want to ensure that moms and babies are protected. So, Kansans are very concerned about this push to make us an unlimited destination for abortion,” Brittany Jones, a lawyer who helped write the amendment, has told CNN.

Jones and Kansas Republicans had been working on the amendment for years.

The issue was placed on the primary ballot, rather than the general election, which abortion rights advocates believe was intended in order to limit turnout. Registered Republicans outnumber Democrats in the state by more than 350,000, according to the latest figures from the Kansas Secretary of State’s office.

The constitutional amendment has already raised voter interest in the primary election, according to the Kansas Secretary of State’s office.

CNN’s Nick Valencia and Devon Sayers contributed to this report.