Kansas voters have rejected a proposal by the state’s Republican-controlled legislature to amend the state constitution in a way that would have cleared the way for lawmakers to ban or restrict abortion.
The referendum was the first electoral test of public opinion in the United States since the Supreme Court removed federal protections for the procedure in June.
As of Wednesday morning, with 96 percent of the vote counted, the No campaign led by 59 percent to 41 percent, pointing to a crushing defeat for Republicans and anti-abortion activists who had supported the so-called amendment Rate them both.
US President Joe Biden said the vote made it clear that most Americans agree that women should have access to abortion and should have the right to make their own decisions about health.
“Congress should listen to the will of the American people and restore the protections of Roe as federal law,” he said.
The result followed a hard-fought campaign that drew national attention, shortly after the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn the landmark 1973 Roe vs. Wade ruling that gave states the right to regulate abortion.
Analysts said the victory for the abortion rights movement in a conservative state, which has not voted for a Democratic presidential candidate since 1964, suggested the public reaction to the Supreme Court ruling could be stronger than that was expected
It could also energize the abortion rights movement ahead of several other votes expected to favor Democrats in the run-up to November’s midterm elections, they added.
“A win in a red state will help the pro-choice movement in terms of fundraising and recruiting as they look to other states for their next vote,” said Michael Smith, a professor of politics at the Emporia State University in Kansas.
He said Kansans can usually be trusted to elect Republicans at the state and national level, but he didn’t approve of everything the party proposed because of a libertarian streak and an aversion to big government.
“It could be taxes or proposals from Democrats. But this vote suggests it can also be applied to regulation of the body itself,” Smith said.
Neal Allen, a political analyst at Wichita State University, said the victory was significant and suggested Republicans would struggle to win planned referendums to restrict abortion in other states.
“If you can’t win a vote to restrict abortion in Kansas, you probably can only win in a few states,” Allen said.
The proposed Value Them Both amendment would have overturned a 2019 Kansas Supreme Court ruling that found women had the right to make decisions about their bodies, including terminating pregnancies.
The amendment was promoted by conservative lawmakers and church groups who wanted to alter the state constitution to allow the legislature to pass laws to restrict access to abortion.
Planned Parenthood, a major funder of the campaign against the referendum, said the result meant Kansas would remain one of the only states in the region to guarantee abortion and a critical access point for women in neighboring states with prohibitions.
Video: Abortion Law: Roe vs. Wade and the US Constitution