A protester holds a sign reading "STOP THE BANS"

Anti-Abortion Advocates Have Been Fighting Dirty Leading Up To a Crucial Vote in Kansas Tomorrow

For the first time since the Supreme Court handed down its decision in Dobbs v. Jackson WHO, overturning Roe v. Wade, voters will have a chance to vote on abortion rights.

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Tomorrow, Tuesday, August 2, abortion access is on the ballot in Kansas. But even before the votes are counted, the lead-up to this election has given us a clear picture of what the legislative fight over abortion will look like moving forward, and in short, it’s a mess.

In 2019, the Kansas Supreme Court ruled that abortion was a protected right under the state constitution. The “No State Constitutional Right to Abortion and Legislative Power to Regulate Abortion Amendment” would reverse that decision and allow lawmakers to institute abortion bans. That name is already dangerously confusing as a NO vote is in favor of protecting the constitutional right to abortion, while a yes vote is a vote to allow a ban on abortion.

The actual text of the amendment is even more confusing, and deliberately so. Supporters of the amendment—which they have given the emotionally manipulative and totally disingenuous moniker “Value Them Both” are counting on voters’ confusion.

Here’s what Kansas voters will see on their ballot:

“Regulation of abortion. Because Kansans value both women and children, the constitution of the state of Kansas does not require government funding of abortion and does not create or secure a right to abortion. To the extent permitted by the constitution of the United States, the people, through their elected state representatives and state senators, may pass laws regarding abortion, including, but not limited to, laws that account for circumstances of pregnancy resulting from rape or incest, or circumstances of necessity to save the life of the mother.”

The “Value Them Both” campaign is adamant that this isn’t actually a ban on abortion. That is a technicality. What it does is strip Kansans of any control they have over the matter and put that control in the hands of legislators. Kansas has been creeping its way blue in recent years but the statehouse is still firmly in Republicans’ control. And while the amendment might not be an outright ban itself, state lawmakers and the “Value Them Both” campaign have a ban ready to go.

The Kansas Reflector obtained audio of a recent meeting in which VTB’s director, Lori Chrisman, told a group of Republicans that if the amendment passes, they already have a bill crafted. “We do have one ready—HB2746—so we’ll move that up,” she said.

“The legislation would criminalize all abortions from the moment of fertilization until birth. The felony level would be the same as murder,” writes the Reflector. “There are exceptions for miscarriages, stillbirths and ectopic pregnancies, but not for rape, incest, or to save the life of a mother.”

The majority of Kansas voters are against a total ban on abortion without those exceptions. Not only does this amendment not reflect that, but it includes sneaky language that sounds like those exceptions are part of the amendment itself. In reality, they’ve made it clear the end goal is a complete and total ban on abortion.

Opponents of the amendment have smartly been splitting their messaging between addressing the issue of abortion head-on and also emphasizing that this is a matter of “constitutional freedom,” which it very much is. Supporters, meanwhile, have been leaning on emotional manipulation to the point of outright lies.

A political science professor from the University of Kansas spoke with BuzzFeed News and said that “a volunteer for the ‘yes’ campaign who knocked on his door tried to convince him that right now in Kansas, babies are being aborted ‘up until the day of birth,’ which is not true.

“Some of that messaging has not been entirely honest, but they’re focusing on something that elicits an emotional response and that you’re going to get more consensus on,” he told the outlet.

Others have posted screenshots online of misinformation they say they’ve been texted from unnamed “yes” advocates, claiming that “women in KS are losing their choice on reproductive rights,” and that “voting YES on the amendment will give women a choice.” That is the opposite of what the amendment will do if passed.

On top of the deliberately deceptive language of the amendment, the emotionally manipulative lies being spread by its proponents, and the fact that its very name makes it sound like you should cast the opposite vote of what you actually support, this amendment ended up on a primary ballot in August, when voter turnout in general is always low and specifically gives little incentive to registered Independents (who tend to swing Democrat) to show up at all.

The fight for abortion access in Kansas is especially important not just for Kansans, but because it’s bordered by two states with some of the most restrictive abortion policies in the country (Missouri and Oklahoma), and we now find ourselves at a time when the best option for many Americans seeking abortion—as impractical as it is for so many people—is to travel out-of-state.

This is the first time voters will have a say in protecting abortion access since the Dobbs decision decimated the constitutional protection to abortion but it won’t be the last. Currently, at least nine states have a constitutional protection for abortion based on court rulings and you can bet anti-abortion advocates in each of those states are already ramping up similar efforts. The fight in Kansas shows us how dirty those fights are likely to get.

(image: Megan Varner/Getty Images)


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Author
Vivian Kane
Vivian Kane (she/her) is the Senior News Editor at The Mary Sue, where she's been writing about politics and entertainment (and all the ways in which the two overlap) since the dark days of late 2016. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri, where she gets to put her MFA to use covering the local theatre scene. She is the co-owner of The Pitch, Kansas City’s alt news and culture magazine, alongside her husband, Brock Wilbur, with whom she also shares many cats.