Politics: Kansas abortion amendment vote seen as a bellwether for post-Roe era

Top anti-abortion activist slams GOP Rep. Matt Gaetz for mocking the physical appearance of pro-abortion rights protestors

  Top anti-abortion activist slams GOP Rep. Matt Gaetz for mocking the physical appearance of pro-abortion rights protestors Gaetz characterized abortion rights protestors as "5-foot-2 and 350 pounds" and said "nobody wants to impregnate you if you look like a thumb."And the president of a major anti-abortion group, Marjorie Dannenfelser, has had enough of it.

On Tuesday, for the first time since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, voters will weigh in directly on abortion in what both sides call a bellwether for the issue in post-Roe America.

Kansas primary election ballots include a proposal to amend the state constitution to explicitly disavow the right to access abortion. It will be the first popular vote on abortion rights in nearly 50 years. In reversing Roe in June, the Supreme Court ruled that abortion should be left to individual states.

"This amendment vote is actually saying: Do we want abortion restrictions greater than we have? Or we're okay with abortion rights," said Russell Arben Fox, a professor of political science at Friends University, where he studies Kansas politics.

The Supreme Court will likely enter new territory on abortion rights as thorny questions over rape, interstate travel, and data privacy roil the country

  The Supreme Court will likely enter new territory on abortion rights as thorny questions over rape, interstate travel, and data privacy roil the country "There are major, important questions yet to be addressed," one legal expert said. "The court still has a lot of work to do in this area."Roe v. Wade, which established a federal right to abortion nearly 50 years ago, was an "abuse of judicial authority" that "sparked a national controversy," Justice Samuel Alito, the author of the monumental June 24 ruling, wrote in the majority opinion.

MORE: Without abortion, pregnancy aid programs face surge in demand

Polls show that most Kansans, like most Americans, support some restrictions on abortion services; but majorities also feel strongly that the procedure should not be completely banned.

"This is a vote in a Republican state that's going to see whether or not that majority can still make its voice be heard. If not, that's a lesson to other states," Fox said. Analysis by FiveThirtyEight has found the vote will likely be very close.

The so-called "Value Them Both" amendment proposal reads, in part: "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."

High-level Democratic talks with Manchin were so secretive that even Chuck Schumer’s No. 2 deputy said he was surprised by the deal

  High-level Democratic talks with Manchin were so secretive that even Chuck Schumer’s No. 2 deputy said he was surprised by the deal Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin, who is Schumer's Number 2 Deputy, told Punchbowl News that the deal was "news to me."The opinion was written by Justice Samuel Alito and supported by conservative justices Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett, three of whom were appointed by former President Donal Trump.

Ben Kennedy, left, and Alyssa Winters go door-to-door to speak with prospective voters about a proposed amendment to the Kansas constitution that would allow legislators to further restrict or ban abortion, July 8, 2022, in Olathe, Kan. © John Hanna/AP Ben Kennedy, left, and Alyssa Winters go door-to-door to speak with prospective voters about a proposed amendment to the Kansas constitution that would allow legislators to further restrict or ban abortion, July 8, 2022, in Olathe, Kan. Russell Arben Fox, professor of political science at Friends University in Wichita, Kan., says polling shows most Kansans are © ABC News Russell Arben Fox, professor of political science at Friends University in Wichita, Kan., says polling shows most Kansans are "uncomfortable with abortion" but opposed to a total ban on the procedure.

A "yes" vote to approve the amendment would effectively override a 2019 state Supreme Court ruling which said the state constitution protects abortion access under a right to personal autonomy. It would clear the way for GOP super-majorities in the Kansas legislature to enact more stringent abortion restrictions -- if not a total ban -- in keeping with a pattern of such laws in red states nationwide.

Sen. Susan Collins warns that Democrats' surprise climate deal could endanger bipartisan support for same-sex marriage bill

  Sen. Susan Collins warns that Democrats' surprise climate deal could endanger bipartisan support for same-sex marriage bill The moderate Republican told HuffPost this week that the timing of Sens. Schumer and Manchin's agreement "could not have been worse."Sen. Susan Collins of Maine suggested the surprise climate deal struck by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Joe Manchin this week on a skinnier version of the president's economic agenda could tank bipartisan efforts to pass a bill protecting same-sex marriage.

A "no" vote would keep the status quo, the amendment's opponents say, preserving Kansas as an abortion rights refuge in a region where bans on the procedure have proliferated.

"We are simply returning the question of abortion back to the people of Kansas," said Brittany Jones, director of policy and engagement at Kansas Family Voice, an advocacy group backing the amendment. "It is absolutely not a ban on abortion. It's all about protecting our more than 20-plus regulations that actually are saving lives and helping moms and babies."

The Kansas vote on a proposed state constitutional amendment on abortion is the first popular test on abortion rights since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. © ABC News The Kansas vote on a proposed state constitutional amendment on abortion is the first popular test on abortion rights since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.

Kansas currently allows abortions up to 20 weeks after fertilization but requires patients to undergo counseling and a 24-hour waiting period; provide parental consent in cases of a minor; and obtain an ultrasound.

While several neighboring states outlawed abortions after Roe was nullified, Kansas is one of eight states that have state constitutional protection for abortion under a prior state court ruling and were unaffected by the U.S. Supreme Court's decision.

Democratic Rep. Tim Ryan waves off support from AOC in his Ohio Senate bid: 'It's not a helpful endorsement here'

  Democratic Rep. Tim Ryan waves off support from AOC in his Ohio Senate bid: 'It's not a helpful endorsement here' "It's not a helpful endorsement here," the congressman told NBC News regarding AOC's involvement in his Senate bid. "Nor did I seek it."However, Ryan, who is locked in a tough Senate race against Republican J.D. Vance in red-trending Ohio, is not thrilled about the show of support that he received from the progressive New York lawmaker.

Its four active abortion clinics performed more than 8,100 abortions in 2020, according to the Guttmacher Institute, an abortion rights advocacy group.

Brittany Jones, director of policy and engagement at Kansas Family Voice, speaks to ABC News about the © ABC News Brittany Jones, director of policy and engagement at Kansas Family Voice, speaks to ABC News about the "Value Them Both" amendment to the state constitution.

"Why this vote is so important is that it's an infringement on folks' constitutional rights," said Dr. Christina Bourne, medical director of the Trust Women clinic in Wichita. "Abortion is a canary in [the] coal mine situation. If we lose access to Kansas, then we lose access to being able to take care of a lot of people in the Midwest and the South."

Republican-led legislatures in five other states -- Louisiana, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and West Virginia -- have advanced similar efforts to amend their constitutions to restrict abortion rights. A proposed amendment in Kentucky will appear on the ballot in November.

Dr. Christina Bourne is medical director of the Trust Women clinic in Wichita, one of four abortion clinics in Kansas. © ABC News Dr. Christina Bourne is medical director of the Trust Women clinic in Wichita, one of four abortion clinics in Kansas.

Ahead of the Kansas vote, both sides in the abortion debate have mobilized multi-million dollar organizing and advertising campaigns unlike any America has seen on the issue in a generation.

AOC chides Alito for 'politicized' comments on global leaders' reactions to overturning Roe

  AOC chides Alito for 'politicized' comments on global leaders' reactions to overturning Roe Alito criticized "foreign leaders" for commenting on the court's 5-4 decision to overturn the landmark case Roe v. Wade."Remember: it was Alito’s opinion that leaked," Ocasio-Cortez wrote in a tweet Thursday. "That fact paired with his politicized remarks below should be alarming to anyone.

Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, the national political arm of the anti-abortion movement, says it's investing at least $1.3 million in the Kansas campaign and has deployed an army of student canvassers visiting more than a quarter-million homes to promote the amendment.

Leading national abortion rights groups, including the Planned Parenthood Action Fund and NARAL Pro-Choice America, have also gotten involved, making Kansas a priority in a $150 million midterm election organizing and advertising blitz.

Patients at the the Trust Women abortion clinic in Wichita, Kansas, leave notes of encouragement to each other on a waiting room bulletin board. © ABC News Patients at the the Trust Women abortion clinic in Wichita, Kansas, leave notes of encouragement to each other on a waiting room bulletin board.

"This is probably the biggest election I've ever seen in my lifetime -- this tiny little primary," said Sedgwick County Commissioner Lacey Cruse, who supports abortion rights and opposes the amendment.

It is unusual for a ballot measure as significant as amending the state constitution to be included in a summer primary -- rather than the fall general election -- when voter turnout tends to be low in Kansas, historically around 20%. Opponents of the amendment argue the timing was deliberate. (The amendment's proponents insist it's coincidental.)

MORE: Biden signs executive order on abortion access amid pressure from Democrats

"I think it's kind of predatory the way that they're putting this up for ballot because this is typically when you just vote for your party, not going and voting for a huge decision like this," said Emily Becker, a Wichita resident who supports abortion access.

One month post-Roe and abortion clinics are being forced to shutter

  One month post-Roe and abortion clinics are being forced to shutter Story at a glance New data reveals many abortion clinics across 11 states that have either banned or restricted abortion have been forced to close down. Before the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, there were 71 clinics across those 11 states that were still providing abortion care. By July 24, one month after the…Data collected by the Guttmacher Institute, an abortion policy and advocacy group, found that the number of clinics offering abortion care dropped sharply in states that implemented a total or six-week abortion ban in the first month following the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe.

ABC News joined canvassers on both sides of the issue as they went door-to-door across Wichita in sweltering heat several weeks before the vote.

Jennifer Hickerson, a devout Catholic grandmother in the College Hill neighborhood of Wichita, says amending the Kansas constitution would clear the way for a legislators to enact a total abortion ban in her state. © ABC News Jennifer Hickerson, a devout Catholic grandmother in the College Hill neighborhood of Wichita, says amending the Kansas constitution would clear the way for a legislators to enact a total abortion ban in her state.

"Abortion is the killing of an unborn baby," said Jennifer Hickerson, a devout Catholic grandmother who called the vote a critical step toward a total abortion ban. "What will happen then is that our legislators, our elected officials -- elected by the people -- will be able to enact laws regulating [abortion]" if the amendment passes.

Susan Osborne, who is also a Catholic grandmother, has been urging neighbors to vote against the measure, calling it an infringement on constitutional liberty.

"For my daughter, for my granddaughter," Osborne said as she canvassed the Riverside neighborhood of Wichita. "[Women are] angry about Roe v. Wade and they're angry that Kansas has this constitutional amendment coming up."

Susan Osborne, a Catholic grandmother in Wichita, Kan., has been urging neighbors to vote against an amendment to the state constitution disavowing protection for abortion rights. © ABC News Susan Osborne, a Catholic grandmother in Wichita, Kan., has been urging neighbors to vote against an amendment to the state constitution disavowing protection for abortion rights.

Outside the Trust Women clinic, ABC News spoke with Adrian, an Oklahoma mother of two who asked not to have her full name used to protect her privacy. Adrian called Kansas a beacon of hope at a time when reproductive health services where she lives have become harder to obtain. Oklahoma is one of 13 states that have ceased nearly all abortions.

After receiving one of the last legal abortions in Oklahoma last month, Adrian drove to Wichita worried that the procedure wasn't successful. She is still testing as "pregnant," she told ABC News.

Chuck Schumer's summer winning streak boosts Democrats' midterm hopes as Republicans worry about a momentum shift

  Chuck Schumer's summer winning streak boosts Democrats' midterm hopes as Republicans worry about a momentum shift Schumer's wins are not just for his legacy but also for Biden, whose legislative agenda has largely hinged on Democratic congressional leaders managing their slim majorities. "We'll never be able to repay the debt we owe to those who have worn the uniform, but today, Congress delivered on a promise to our veterans and their families," Biden wrote on Twitter, adding, "The PACT Act will be the biggest expansion of VA health care in decades. We should all take pride in this moment.

MORE: Abortion foes credit strategy and luck in Supreme Court bid to end Roe

"It's just really disheartening that I can't do something like this and in my hometown -- that I have to travel," she said of her trip to Wichita seeking an ultrasound. "I had my own inhibitions about abortions. But you know, life experiences happen and the decisions you make are ones that you will make and live with. So for me, I just feel like women should have the ability to be trusted more and their decisions on what they do for themselves."

Advocates for and against the Kansas amendment agreed that the U.S. Supreme Court's decision overturning Roe has energized and engaged voters for what would have been an otherwise sleepy summer election.

Both sides in the nation's abortion debate say a Kansas vote on whether to amend the state constitution over abortion will be a bellwether for the right to choose in post-Roe America. © ABC News Both sides in the nation's abortion debate say a Kansas vote on whether to amend the state constitution over abortion will be a bellwether for the right to choose in post-Roe America.

"I think it sends a message to the rest of the United States to stand up. Speak out. Stay strong," said Osborne, one of the locals who supports abortion access.

Turnout is expected to be the deciding factor in the constitutional amendment's fate.

Hickerson, another local, hopes to see it pass: "I'm confident that God's will will be done."

Chuck Schumer's summer winning streak boosts Democrats' midterm hopes as Republicans worry about a momentum shift .
Schumer's wins are not just for his legacy but also for Biden, whose legislative agenda has largely hinged on Democratic congressional leaders managing their slim majorities. "We'll never be able to repay the debt we owe to those who have worn the uniform, but today, Congress delivered on a promise to our veterans and their families," Biden wrote on Twitter, adding, "The PACT Act will be the biggest expansion of VA health care in decades. We should all take pride in this moment.

See also