August 2 is primary day in Kansas. Voters will be choosing their party’s nominee for governor, congressional representatives and state representatives. It’s a typical primary day ballot, except for one item: Amendment 2, which would remove the right to an abortion from the state constitution.
In the aftermath of the end of Roe v. Wade, 13 states are currently enforcing abortion bans, and another state, Wisconsin, has stopped providing abortions altogether. Many of those states are Kansas’s neighbors, including Oklahoma, Missouri and nearby Arkansas. For now, abortion remains legal in Kansas, and that’s largely because in 2019, the Kansas State Supreme Court ruled that the Kansas State Constitution protects the right to an abortion. That landmark ruling is the only thing keeping abortion legal in Kansas, as hostile lawmakers and abortion opponents champ at the bit to make abortion illegal in Kansas, the latest domino to fall in a post-Roe U.S.
Amendment 2 is their chance to do just that. If it passes, it will override the 2019 Kansas State Supreme Court ruling and eradicate the right to an abortion in Kansas. Polls are very close; a recent Co/efficient poll shows that 47 percent of Kansans plan to vote for the amendment, while 43 percent are opposed. Ten percent are undecided.
But this isn’t the fair fight that abortion opponents are claiming it is.
In his Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization ruling, Justice Samuel Alito insisted that we can just “vote” our way to abortion rights, an absurd claim from a justice who has favored every attack on voting rights to come his way. This election is the perfect refutation of that claim. The vote on Amendment 2 — quite literally about whether abortion should remain a constitutional right in Kansas — is happening during a primary election, in a midterm election year, in a state that requires voter ID, in the middle of one of the hottest and most brutal summers ever. Now, abortion opponents are pushing to have votes via ballot drop box discounted.
Not only that, but advocates say the amendment is confusingly worded and riddled with inaccuracies. In one Kansas county, the word “pregnancy” was spelled incorrectly. And Rotonda Johnson, a 56-year-old Kansan who wants abortion to remain legal, told the Washington Post that she’s confused about which way to vote on the amendment: “I had to ask, which way for yes and which way for no? Either way, I don’t think the government should stop abortion.”
Electoral chicanery is the only way abortion opponents can win on this losing issue. Legal abortion is actually quite popular in the U.S. According to a recent CNN poll, 69 percent of Americans want Roe v. Wade to be upheld. Abortion opponents know this. They know that banning abortion isn’t supported by the majority of Americans, so instead, they try to find creative ways to ban abortion while telling us that they’re not actually banning abortion.
Take, for instance, the Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers (TRAP) laws. These laws are medically unnecessary and burdensome requirements that states impose on abortion clinics, like requiring them to adhere to strict facility regulations that are designed to force clinics to close. But abortion opponents disingenuously argue TRAP laws are not about closing down abortion clinics; they want us to believe they’re about safety! Sex-selective abortion bans? Abortion opponents falsely claim they’re not about banning abortion; they want us to believe they’re about protecting baby girls!
An amendment that would strip Kansans of their recently-affirmed right to an abortion? Abortion opponents say it’s not about banning abortion; they just want “reasonable safeguards” in place!
All of this is deceptive garbage. Abortion opponents aren’t interesting in protecting women and girls — their agenda is to ban abortion, and while Roe was the law of the land, they had to get creative about how to do that. They don’t have to be creative anymore. How can we possibly know that? Just look at what has happened in the wake of Roe v. Wade’s end. A growing number of states are implementing abortion bans and restrictions. In a matter of months, that could be as high as 26 states, more than half the states in the union.
The point of Amendment 2 and ending the constitutional right to abortion is exactly that — ending legal abortion. Kansas State Sen. Mark Steffen recently said as much. If Amendment 2 passes, “We’ll be able to make further laws, further refinement, with my goal of life starting at conception,” he said at a local county meeting. If Amendment 2 passes, the Republican-dominated legislature is poised to quickly advance a total abortion ban, likely without exceptions for rape, incest or health of the pregnant person, as more Republicans are now pushing.
Kansas has a history of resistance to anti-abortion organizing. George Tiller refused to stop providing abortion care in Wichita, despite a bombing at his clinic in 1986 and an assassination attempt by an anti-abortion terrorist in 1993. The Kansas Abortion Fund has funded abortions and facilitated access to care since 1996. And now, a bipartisan coalition of reproductive rights advocates and organizations, Kansas for Constitutional Freedom, has tried to channel that history into a consolidated movement to defeat Amendment 2.
The federal protection of a Kansan’s right to an abortion is already gone, due to the egregious ruling in Dobbs. If the state protection of that right also falls on August 2, the right to an abortion will be defenseless against the most extreme anti-abortion forces in Kansas. Any ban on abortions is likely only the first step toward restricting the rights and lives of pregnant people in Kansas, and a far more draconian world is likely on the horizon. If abortion opponents succeed in overriding what the Kansas Supreme Court only recently affirmed, it’s clear that any right, no matter how seemingly entrenched, is at risk.