Kansans vote overwhelmingly to preserve abortion rights

Voters in Kansas turned out in record numbers Tuesday and overwhelmingly rejected a proposed amendment that would have removed the right to an abortion from the state constitution and opened the door for the Republican-controlled legislature to pass restrictions or an outright ban. Ali Rogin reports from Kansas.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    Voters in Kansas turned out in record numbers yesterday and overwhelmingly rejected a proposed amendment that would have removed the right to an abortion from the state Constitution and opened the door to the Republican legislature passing restrictions or an outright ban.

    The vote no side celebrated its victory last night.

  • Allie Utley, Kansas Voter:

    I'm super proud to be from Kansas tonight.

    And I feel like my state just showed and boldly told me that they going to take care of me and my female friends and everyone that can get pregnant in the state of Kansas. We are protected tonight.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Ali Rogin was reporting for us from Kansas in the days leading up to the election and she has been watching the vote.

    So, hello, Ali.

    You were there. You were watching closely last night. These results were a surprise. Tell us what happened.

  • Ali Rogin:

    It was a stunning defeat for this amendment.

    The vote was 59-41 against. Experts we have spoken to over the past few days thought it was going to be much closer, even though they weren't sure which side was ultimately going to prevail. So, certainly, this is a much larger margin than anybody anticipated.

    And, now, why? Well, one big reason is turnout. Take a look at these numbers. During the last primary in 2018, just over 405,000 people turned out. Compare that with this vote just yesterday, about double that, more than 900,000 Kansans. And that's just slightly less than the turnout in the 2020 general election, which saw 1.3 million voters.

    Now, practically speaking, Judy, this means that abortion remains the same as it was in Kansas before this vote. The procedure is allowed up to 22 weeks. But the pro-amendment side says that this vote was just a temporary setback. And they say, Judy, that the fight is going to continue in Kansas.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    These numbers are just way off the charts for an off-year election.

    So, Ali, I know you have been talking to people. What is it thought this means for the November midterms?

  • Ali Rogin:

    Well, it's certainly the start of a number of state-by-state votes on the abortion issue that we are going to see.

    Take a look at the map. We know that there are four other states who have already certified abortion-related ballot measures for November, and then a fifth in Michigan. They have collected enough signatures to get it on the ballot. That certification is likely going to come later this month.

    Now, of course, every state is unique. And we can only extrapolate so much from what happened in one state. But a couple things are clear. Number one, Kansas is a reliably red state. Consider a state like Michigan that's likely going to be voting on a measure that would enshrine abortion rights in the state Constitution. It's basically the mirror image of the vote that took place in Kansas.

    Now, if the amendment was defeated so soundly in a red state like Kansas, that doesn't seem to bode well for its prospects in a purple state like Michigan. And one other thing is clear. The abortion issue is driving people out to the polls. And that's reflected in a new Monmouth University poll that came out today.

    A quarter of Democratic voters nationwide said that their number one issue going into the midterm season is abortion.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Wow.

    Well, we knew it was an issue of importance, of interest to many, but this is definitive proof that that's the case.

  • Ali Rogin:

    It's the first in the country, and more to come.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Ali Rogin, thank you.

  • Ali Rogin:

    Thank you.

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