Editorial: A message from Kansas


The message from Kansas last Tuesday was clear: By a wide margin, voters in this deep-red state acted to protect abortion rights from the whims of conservative lawmakers.

It’s a message that needs to be heard in Congress, especially the Senate, where legislation to preserve abortion rights across the country has garnered only minimal bipartisan support.

On the ballot in Kansas was a referendum that would have changed the state constitution to say it did not contain abortion rights and did not require government funding for the procedure. It would also have granted the state legislature the power to pass laws regarding abortion.

The measure failed decisively: 59-41% according to unofficial results. The result raises hopes that another constitutional anti-abortion measure in Kentucky will fail in November, while measures to protect abortion rights in Vermont and California may succeed. Last session, New York lawmakers — who had already codified abortion rights into state law — began the long process of cementing the protection in the state constitution; that change could pass voters in 2023.

Kansas’ vote tally isn’t too far off from that of the country as a whole: 61% of Americans say abortion should be legal in most or all cases, according to various polls tracked by the Pew Research Center . It should also be noted that the question is unclear along party lines. While more Democrats and fewer Republicans support abortion rights — 80% versus 38%, respectively — Republican views are more split. While the most conservative GOP voters oppose abortion rights (72%), a majority of those who consider themselves moderate Republicans favor it (60%).

All of this should inform U.S. senators as this chamber weighs legislation to codify abortion rights protections in Roe v. Wade, the 1973 ruling that the current six conservative Supreme Court justices overturned in June. A bipartisan compromise proposed by the Democratic Sens. Tim Kaine of Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, and the Republican Sens. Maine’s Susan Collins and Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski would prevent state legislatures in most cases from infringing on abortion rights before fetal viability, which is about 24 years old. weeks. This would allow for state restrictions after that, except in cases where the mother’s life is in danger. The bill would also protect people’s access to contraception.

The bill isn’t as broad as some Democrats and abortion rights activists would like, and in a Senate split 50-50 between Democrats and Republicans, even this compromise was not expected to pass the 60-vote threshold. to break a buccaneer.

But what happened in Kansas should be a wake-up call for senators, even those from red states. It’s an issue that has clearly spurred people on enough to get them to the polls to defend what most people regard as an essential part of women’s health care and a constitutional right for almost half a century. century. Politicians can heed that call or risk what Kansas is warning could be the consequences of ignoring it in November.

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