TOP STORIES Abortion rights supporters and opponents learn lessons from Kansas...

Abortion rights supporters and opponents learn lessons from Kansas vote


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Pro-abortion constitutional amendment supporters in Kansas remove posters ahead of Tuesday’s vote.

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Kyle Rivas/Getty Images

Pro-abortion constitutional amendment supporters in Kansas remove posters ahead of Tuesday’s vote.

Kyle Rivas/Getty Images

On Tuesday night, as the results of Kansas’ consistent vote on abortion rights were tallied, advocates on both sides of the abortion debate were watching closely, learning lessons as they prepare for similar votes on abortion rights measures this fall.

Results in Kansas – First state vote for abortion rights since Rowe vs. Wade was canceled in June — it overturned traditional ideas about abortion policy. In a Republican-leaning state that voted 15 points ahead of President Donald Trump in 2020, the result was a landslide that few expected: Nearly 60% of voters chose to support abortion rights.

Among the states scheduled to vote in November is Kentucky, where voters will consider a constitutional amendment similar to the one that failed in Kansas.

Abortion rights supporters were “emboldened” by Tuesday’s results, said Samuel Crankshaw of the Kentucky ACLU, who opposes the proposed amendment. “We are lucky that we can learn from allies in other states at the moment,” he said.

Addiya Wuhner, executive director of the Kentucky Right to Life Association, watched the election results from home in her office, she said. She called the result “heartbreaking.”

With less than 100 days left before the election, her coalition is stepping up its messaging, fundraising and training efforts. They are gearing up for the spotlight—and the simultaneous flow of outside money—to turn to Kentucky.

Kentucky is more conservative than Kansas – trailing Trump by 26 points – but some of the dynamics are similar, with a small number of blue counties surrounded by a red sea. But the pro-choice preponderance in Kansas was so great that it caused concern in the Vuchner group and others.

“We’re just analyzing right now to see what we can learn,” she said.

Measures in three other states

In addition to Kentucky, abortion rights voting will appear in two blue states, California and Vermont. Another is expected in Michigan, where abortion rights supporters recently garnered a record number of signatures for a proposed amendment.

Pew Research Center survey conducted last month showed that 62% of Americans believe that abortion should be legal in all or most cases.

Results in Kansas showed a swing of 10 to 15 points in many counties from the 2020 presidential election results to Tuesday’s vote, suggesting abortion is an issue that could challenge party lines.

“The results in Kansas reflect what we’re seeing across the country and here in Michigan: voters are energized and motivated to resist protecting their health and rights after the federal constitutional right to abortion is repealed,” said Ashley Fenisi, spokesperson for Michigan-based Planned Parenthood Advocates. , one of the pro-voting groups in Michigan.

The empty office of the Planned Parenthood Center in Kentucky, where a court this week reinstated a near-total ban on abortion.

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The empty office of the Planned Parenthood Center in Kentucky, where a court this week reinstated a near-total ban on abortion.

John Cherry/Getty Images

Creating messages for different constituencies

Campaign tactics that work in Kansas might not be acceptable in a swing state like Michigan or Florida, said Rachel Rebush, professor of reproductive and family law at Temple University.

“What voters will react to will depend on where they are, on the culture they find themselves in,” she said in an interview with NPR.

In Kansas, the abortion rights campaign was successful with reports of autonomy and abuse of power. (One TV commercial paired the words “government mandate” with a photo of a sign urging business customers to wear face masks..) Many of his mailing lists and advertisements avoided the word “abortion” altogether.

“It really wove together a set of messages about the aftermath, but also appealed to how the campaign thought Kansas voters would react,” Rebusch said.

Other advertisements in Kansas presented the proposed amendment as too extreme for Kansans, pointing to language that would allow legislators to pass restrictions on abortion “including, but not limited to, laws that take into account the circumstances” of rape, incest, or life is under threat.

More noise to cut in November

The wording “may have been a factor” in the failure of the measure, said Vuchner of Kentucky Right to Life, calling the wording “confusing”.

“People are not accustomed to discussing all factual issues like legislators. And maybe it was too much wording,” she said. This may have opened the door for opponents of the “fear-mongers” amendment, she added.

The measure of voting in Kentucky is simpler. The state constitution will be amended as follows: “For the protection of human life, nothing in this Constitution shall be construed to provide or protect the right to abortion or require funding for abortion.”

In contrast, the proposed amendment in Michigan, which would add protection for abortion rights to the state constitution rather than abolish them, as in Kansas or Kentucky, is far more complex, at over 300 words. (Although this measure is not yet officially on the ballots, its wording has already been criticized by opponents of the right to abortion..)

Another variable could be the wider choice of options facing voters in November. In Kansas, only voters registered with a particular party can vote in that party’s primary, meaning that any independent voter voted on Tuesday to include only the issue of abortion.

In November, voters will weigh other races as well, choosing between candidates with positions on a range of issues. This could boost turnout for a variety of reasons, including inflation, which Republican voters call a “very important” issue much more often than abortion. according to new YouGov polls as well as Kaiser Family Foundation.

“No matter what, we will treat this as an uphill battle because we need to put in all the effort and all the resources we have to defeat this amendment,” Kentucky ACLU’s Crankshaw said.

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