Kansas Voters Just Sent the GOP a Clear Message on Abortion

Kansas has been a hotbed of anti-abortion extremism, but voters rejected an anti-abortion amendment by a huge margin.
Kansas rejects anti-abortion constitutional amendment
Abortion supporters Alie Utley and Joe Moyer react to the failed constitutional amendment proposal at the Kansas Constitutional Freedom Primary Election Watch Party in Overland Park, Kansas on August 2, 2022. (DAVE KAUP/AFP via Getty Images)

Voters in a state that’s previously been a hotbed of anti-abortion extremism resoundingly rejected a constitutional amendment Tuesday that would have removed the right to an abortion from the state constitution. 

Kansans defeated the proposed amendment, which supporters misleadingly named “Value Them Both,” by double-digits, a shocking win for the abortion rights movement in the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which overturned the national right to abortion enshrined by Roe v. Wade nearly 50 years ago. 

Advertisement

And the numbers underneath that win are somehow even more surprising.

As of Wednesday morning, with 95 percent of precincts reporting, the “No” vote had 59 percent of the vote to just 41 percent for the amendment. Coinciding with Kansas’ regular primary for federal and state offices, more than 900,000 people voted in the primary and counting—nearly double the number of people who voted in the 2018 primary and nearly triple those who voted in the 2014 primary, according to MSNBC. 

There were other high-profile primaries in Kansas on Tuesday, including for the Kansas GOP gubernatorial and attorney general nominations, the latter won by former failed gubernatorial and Senate candidate and widely recognized bad lawyer Kris Kobach. But the vote on the constitutional amendment juiced turnout, with over 180,000 people voting on that than voted in the GOP and Democratic gubernatorial primaries combined, as of Wednesday morning. 

Kansas is traditionally a solidly Republican state, despite having a Democratic governor, but the “no” vote ran far ahead of the Democrats in recent elections. In 2020, for example, former President Donald Trump won Sedgwick County—the state’s second-largest, and home to Wichita—by 12 points. But even in a county that saw some of the most vicious anti-abortion extremism in America during the Roe era, 58 percent of voters rejected the amendment. 

Advertisement

This dynamic played out all over the state, from the few solidly Democratic areas such as the Kansas City suburbs of Wyandotte County, to the Republican strongholds of the western part of the state. In tiny Hamilton County, which borders Nebraska, Trump won 81 percent of the vote in 2020; on Tuesday, the “yes” vote won there, but with 56 percent of the vote. And in Crawford County in the east, President Joe Biden got less than 40 percent of the vote in 2020, but the “no” vote won with 55 percent of the vote. 

The results of Tuesday’s election will have reverberating effects throughout the country as the midterm elections draw closer. Four more states have abortion rights on the ballot in November, including Michigan, a key swing state where a 1931 ban on abortion has muddied the waters on abortion rights, and Kentucky, where an effort is underway to explicitly state there’s no right to an abortion in the state constitution. 

And some activists are using the results in Kansas to urge Democrats to defend abortion rights more aggressively. On Wednesday morning, Biden tweeted that Kansas voters “used their voices to protect women’s right to choose and access reproductive health care.”

Renee Bracey Sherman, the founder of the abortion storytelling group We Testify who recently testified before Congress and used the opportunity to inform people how to use abortion pills to self-manage an abortion, tweeted in response: “All these words for the huge win in Kansas and he can’t say abortion.”

Want the best of VICE News straight to your inbox? Sign up here.