By Tatiana Cozzarelli / Left Voice
Kansans have voted to protect abortion rights in their state. Yes, Kansas — the deep red state where Trump won by more than 15 percentage points last election cycle has voted to protect abortion rights. In fact, Kansas has a history of violence against abortion providers, including the murder of abortion doctor George Tiller in 2009.
But the vote wasn’t even close. At the time of publishing, the vote was roughly 60% in favor of abortion rights and 40% against. It was overwhelmingly in favor of protecting abortion rights in the state, with a huge voter turnout and by a wide margin.
Amidst the dystopian chaos that is the post-Roe world, legislators in Kansas tried to slip one past Kansans, holding a referendum in the middle of the summer, during a mostly Republican primary, in an effort to capture a repeal of the state’s constitutional protection for the right to abortion in a low-turnout event. Repeal would have all but certainly ensured that right-wing politicians in the state legislature, with a Republican supermajority, would follow in the footsteps of neighboring states and enact a near-total ban on abortion.
The result in Kansas is a manifestation of the public opinion polls. Most people, Republican and Democrat alike, do not agree with full bans on abortion. Most people in the United States believe that Roe v. Wade should have been upheld.
This is a rejection of the anti-democratic ruling by the Supreme Court — and it’s a rejection by a surprisingly large number of voters. In fact, people waited hours in line, some late into the night and after polls officially closed, in order to vote. While this was also a primary for candidates, many came out only to vote to defend abortion rights — since registered voters who are “unaffiliated,” who made up a major component of the massive turnout, were not eligible to vote for any candidates running as Democrats or Republicans.
In many of Kansas’ neighboring states, abortion has been banned. There are already complete bans in seven states, six week bans in four states, and bans after 15 weeks in two states. Many states don’t even include exceptions for rape and incest. The results have been horrifying. A 10-year-old who was raped was forced to leave Ohio for an abortion in Indiana, and her doctor has been consistantly attacked by the right-wing media and politicians. People unable to access healthcare for their miscarriages have been forced into dangerous and painful situations.
Even with tonight’s outcome, though, many restrictions remain in place in Kansas. There is a 24-hour waiting period, parental consent laws, a mandatory ultrasound, and more. Further, clinics in Kansas have been overcrowded, with long waits for patients as a result of the influx from other states. This vote is a powerful first step to abortion access in Kansas, but this is a far cry from the free, safe, and legal abortions that are a basic right of anyone who can get pregnant.
The vote in Kansas highlights once again that the Supreme Court decision in Dobbs is an undemocratic and illegitimate assault on the bodily autonomy of half of the country. While our basic rights should not be put up to votes, when that does happen we see that an overwhelming majority of people don’t want a ban on abortion. Even in conservative states, the majority of people recognize that abortion is necessary healthcare.
There is much more work to do. Despite the fact that the majority of people are on our side, the national organizations with the funds and organizational infrastructure to mobilize millions of people have refused to do much of anything. Planned Parenthood’s disgraceful position has been to choose the most anti-abortion readings of very ambiguous laws and preemptively close clinics, fearing prosecution. But, again, the truth is that the majority of people are with us. The Democrats know it and will, without a doubt, use abortion rights to mobilize people to the polls in November with more false promises to defend our rights — something they’ve failed to do ever since Roe was decided in 1973.
It’s imperative that we build a movement independent from the Democrats — a movement that takes the streets to demand the right to free, legal, and safe abortions, and a federal law that enshrines that right into law. We need a movement that organizes this overwhelming majority to shut it down, in our workplaces, and in the streets.
Kansas shows that the majority is with us. Now let’s get organized and mobilized across the entire country.