Women and their supporters rise up against anti-abortion tyranny in Kansas

Kansas voters Tuesday reflected the refusal of people across America to accept the tyranny of right-wing Republicans determined to tell them when, where, and how to have and raise their families. The message was clear:  No politicians, women said as they streamed to the polls in record numbers in Kansas, are going to make the decision about what they do with their bodies.

By more than a 20-point margin, the people of Kansas, in sync with national polls, rejected an attempt by the extreme right to kill constitutionally-protected abortion rights in their deeply conservative state. They voted down an amendment to the state constitution that would have allowed Republican legislators to ban abortion altogether in a state that allows it now.

Kansas is an oasis surrounded by states that have passed or are working to pass draconian and dangerous anti-abortion laws.

The vote Tuesday was a reminder to the right wing that Kansans have an important progressive side to their history. When it was founded, Kansas was the first state west of the Mississippi to ban slavery within its borders, and when driving along Route 70, a U.S. highway that crosses the state, one passes near the home of the famed abolitionist John Brown. It was that history that was revived as women rose up to say “Enough” to Republicans trying to become their modern-day masters.

The resounding people’s victory for abortion rights was the first test of voter reaction after the infamous Supreme Court ruling in June that overturned the constitutional right to an abortion established in the Roe v. Wade decision.

Republicans across the country—from Trump and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on down to candidates for Congress, the Senate, governorships, and state legislative bodies—are still trying to absorb the shock as they understand clearly the implications for the mid-term elections. The vote in Kansas is an indicator that the GOP could sustain massive losses in November as a result of their overreach into the private lives of people.

While the Republicans have much to fear, abortion rights activists have much to celebrate. The turnout of an angry public determined to push back the attack on their rights resulted in a healthy margin in favor of reproductive freedom. The turnout was over 53% of eligible voters, close to what would be expected in a November gubernatorial election in Kansas rather than in a primary election held in the 100-degree heat in the “dog days” of August

Democrats, of course, are thrilled with the result.

“This vote makes clear what we know: The majority of Americans agree that women should have access to abortion and should have the right to make their own health care decisions,” President Joe Biden declared after the vote.

After calling on Congress to “restore the protections of Roe” in federal law, Biden added, “the American people must continue to use their voices to protect the right to women’s health care, including abortion.”

The Kansas vote has caused serious second thoughts among Republicans who were happy almost to the point of hysteria, celebrating the Supreme Court ruling and rapidly instituting abortion bans in nearly half the states.

“Kansans bluntly rejected anti-abortion politicians’ attempts at creating a reproductive police state,” said Kimberly Inez McGuire, executive director of Unite for Reproductive and Gender Equity. “Today’s vote was a powerful rebuke and a promise of the mounting resistance.”

The proposed amendment to the Kansas constitution would have added language stating that it does not grant the right to abortion. A 2019 state Supreme Court decision declared that access to abortion is a “fundamental” right under the state’s Bill of Rights, preventing a ban and potentially thwarting legislative efforts to enact new restrictions. It blocked a GOP-pushed law that banned second-trimester procedures and imposed special health regulations on abortion providers.

Mallory Carroll, a spokesperson for the national anti-abortion group Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, described the vote as “a huge disappointment” for the movement and called on anti-abortion candidates to “go on the offensive.”

Republicans in many locations across the country can be counted to not get on board with that sentiment, since their real goal is to retain power everywhere. We can expect that the anti-abortion groups and Republicans will be parting ways, however, when and where the Republicans feel their chances are being hurt by the Supreme Court decision. Donald Trump himself voiced that fear soon after the court ruled in June.

The Kansas measure’s failure was also significant because of the stranglehold the anti-abortion groups have long had over the Republican Party in the state. Anti-abortion “Summer of Mercy” protests in 1991 inspired abortion opponents to take over the Kansas Republican Party and push the state legislature further to the right. They were there because Dr. George Tiller’s clinic was among the few in the U.S. known to provide abortions late in pregnancy, and he was murdered in 2009 by an anti-abortion extremist.

Anti-abortion activists have shown in Kansas that nothing, including murder, is left out of the arsenal of weapons they will use in their fight for “life.”

Meanwhile, politically non-partisan voters also lined up against the anti-abortion crowd on Tuesday. Unprecedented numbers of registered independents voted to keep abortion rights in the constitution. This is also a bad omen for Republicans in November who fear that, together with Democrats, independents could turn out to defeat the GOP.

Kristy Winter, 52, a Kansas City-area teacher and unaffiliated voter, voted against the measure and brought her 16-year-old daughter with her to her polling place.

She told the Associated Press: “I want her to have the same right to do what she feels is necessary, mostly in the case of rape or incest,” she said. “I want her to have the same rights my mother has had most of her life.”

The Republicans and the anti-abortion rights groups engaged in dirty tricks in their failed attempt to tamp down the uprising in favor of abortion rights.  They sent a misleading text Monday to Kansas voters telling them to “vote yes” to protect choice. To their credit, masses of people in Kansas saw through the trick and it seems to have only reinforced the image of the Republicans and right-wingers as serial liars.

The victory in Kansas could have positive effects on abortion rights legislation across the country. Vermont will decide in November whether to add an abortion rights provision to its constitution, and a similar question is likely headed to the November ballot in Michigan.

John Wojcik is Editor-in-Chief of People’s World. He joined the staff as Labor Editor in May 2007 after working as a union meat cutter in northern New Jersey. There, he served as a shop steward, as a member of a UFCW contract negotiating committee, and as an activist in the union’s campaign to win public support for Wal-Mart workers. In the 1970s and ’80s he was a political action reporter for the Daily World, this newspaper’s predecessor, and was active in electoral politics in Brooklyn, New York.

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