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Roe v. Wade decision will mean Kansas abortion rights hinge on a state vote in August

The Kansas Constitution gives people the right to an abortion, a judge said in 2019.
Chris Neal
Shooter Imaging
The Kansas Constitution gives people the right to an abortion, a judge said in 2019.

The U.S. Supreme Court appears poised to strike down abortion protections, making an upcoming Kansas vote on abortion rights even more important.

TOPEKA, Kansas — A leaked draft of a U.S. Supreme Court opinion shows the justices are preparing to overturn federal abortion rights protections, and that raises the stakes for a constitutional amendment vote on abortion rights in Kansas this August.

Losing federal protections would mean the state constitution would be the only protections for abortion rights in Kansas. A Kansas Supreme Court ruling in 2019 said there is a right to abortion in the Kansas Constitution.

Roe was egregiously wrong from the start,” wrote U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito, according to a POLITICO article reporting on the leaked documents. “Its reasoning was exceptionally weak, and the decision has had damaging consequences. And far from bringing about a national settlement of the abortion issue, Roe and Casey have enflamed debate and deepened division.”

On Aug. 2, Kansans will vote on an amendment that would say there is no right to abortion in the state constitution. If approved, and if Roe v. Wade is overturned, the state’s Republican lawmakers — who currently hold a supermajority in the Legislature — are likely to pursue abortion bans similar to Oklahoma, Texas and other Republican-led states.

Mackenzie Haddix, spokesperson for the Value Them Both Coalition that supports the amendment, said Kansas is already a destination for late-term abortions and its laws are “among the most extreme states in the nation.”

“If Kansans want to stop this, they must vote YES on Value Them Both,” she said in a statement.

If the amendment fails, abortion will remain legal in Kansas no matter what the Supreme Court decides.

“We have seen a dramatic acceleration of anti-abortion legislation over the past year — a culmination of the decades-long maneuvering by the right towards this moment,” said the Wichita-based group Trust Women in a statement. “We have seen hundreds of women traveling thousands of miles for medical care that should have been available in their own communities.”

One bill banning abortion has already been introduced in the Kansas Legislature, and does not appear to allow exceptions even in cases of rape or incest.

If the nation’s high court does overturn the decades-old precedent, the country would then be covered with a state-by-state patchwork of differing abortion laws. That, in turn, could lead even more women to travel from their home states for places where it remains legal, including Kansas.

Several states have enacted abortion bans in anticipation of the ruling. Arizona and Wyoming approved laws that will go into effect only if the Supreme Court reverses the ruling that’s protected abortion rights since 1973.

Meanwhile, neighboring states have approved significant bans on abortion that have led to residents looking for abortion services in Kansas. Oklahoma approved a near-total ban on abortion earlier this year, and Texas enacted significant abortion restrictions in 2021. Kansas saw an increase of women seeking service then, making it an unlikely abortion refuge.

Blaise Mesa reports on criminal justice and social services for the Kansas News Service in Topeka. You can follow him on Twitter @Blaise_Mesa or email him at blaise@kcur.org.

Dylan Lysen reports on politics for the Kansas News Service. You can follow him on Twitter @DylanLysen or email him at dlysen (at) kcur (dot) org.

The Kansas News Service is a collaboration of KCUR, Kansas Public Radio, KMUW and High Plains Public Radio focused on health, the social determinants of health and their connection to public policy. 

Kansas News Service stories and photos may be republished by news media at no cost with proper attribution and a link to ksnewsservice.org.

As a criminal justice and social service reporter, it's my job to ensure the systems designed to help people are working as intended. Thousands of Kansans deal with the criminal justice or foster care systems each day. I strive to hold all agencies and departments accountable for the work they are doing. Reach me at blaise@kcur.org.
As a Kansas political reporter, I want to inform our audience about statewide government and elected officials so they can make educated decisions at the ballot box. Sometimes that means I follow developments in the Legislature and explain how lawmakers alter laws and services of the state government. Other times, it means questioning those lawmakers and candidates for office about those changes and what they plan for the future of the state. And most importantly, it includes making sure the voices of everyday Kansans are heard. You can reach me at dlysen@kcur.org, 816-235-8027 or on Twitter, @DylanLysen.
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