In August 2022, Kansans decisively voted to protect reproductive rights, rejecting a proposed constitutional amendment from pro-life groups that said there was no right to abortion in the state. Fifty-nine percent of Kansans voted to safeguard access to abortion, providing an early sign of the unpopularity of the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, even in many red states.
But Kansas Republicans are now trying to overturn the will of the state’s voters. Eight Kansas House Republicans introduced a bill this week that would ban all abortions except those necessary to save the patient’s life, forbid the distribution of drugs that end pregnancies, and allow individuals to file suits against doctors or anyone who helps someone get an abortion.
The legislation seems to be in direct conflict with rulings by the state supreme court, which held in 2019 that access to abortion is a “fundamental” right in the state. Kansas Republicans have repeatedly tried to override the 2022 vote that affirmed the state supreme court’s finding, with Solicitor General Tony Powell telling the court’s justices in March 2023 that the August vote “doesn’t matter.” A majority of the justices expressed skepticism of that position.
“We had a vote in August, and it was pretty overwhelming,” Justice Dan Biles responded. “That’s the elephant in the room.”
Republicans have a two-thirds supermajority in both houses of the state legislature, which means they can override the vetoes of Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly. But given the clear holding of the state supreme court, the new bill is unlikely to advance. Even the state’s largest anti-abortion group, Kansans for Life, says it has “zero chance of becoming law.” Current Kansas law allows an abortion until 22 weeks into a pregnancy.
Kansas is just one example of how Republicans across the country are trying to short-circuit the democratic process to restrict abortion rights. Last August, Ohio Republicans tried to make it much harder to pass ballot initiatives in the state. GOP Secretary of State Frank LaRose admitted it was “100% about keeping a radical pro-abortion amendment out of our constitution.”
The votes in Kansas and Ohio are part of a larger trend. Seven states have voted directly on abortion since the end of Roe and in all seven states abortion rights advocates have won.