By |02 Aug 2022 at 3:46 PM

Voters in Kansas will decide on Tuesday whether the state constitution should go on protecting abortion rights in a closely watched referendum that could lead to abortion access being curtailed or banned in America’s heartland.

The vote is the first statewide electoral test of abortion rights since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 ruling that legalized abortion nationwide. Voters are being asked whether they want to amend the Kansas state constitution to assert there is no right to abortion. The amendment’s passage, which requires a simple majority, would reverse a 2019 state Supreme Court ruling that established such a right in Kansas.

As a result of the 2019 ruling, Kansas – a deeply conservative state that Republican Donald Trump won with 56% of the vote in the 2016 and 2020 presidential elections – has more lenient abortion policies than some of its red-state neighbors. Kansas allows abortion up to 22 weeks in pregnancy with several additional restrictions, including a mandatory 24-hour waiting period and mandatory parental consent for minors.

Passage of the proposed constitutional amendment would enable the state’s Republican-dominated legislature to regulate abortion much further. That could restrict abortion access across the central United States given patients travel to Kansas from Texas, Oklahoma and Missouri, where abortion is banned in almost all cases. A poll conducted July 17-18 by research group Co/efficient showed the vote could be close, with 47% of voters in favor of taking away the constitutional right to an abortion, 43% against it and 10% undecided.

The ballot question has drawn national attention and money. The Value Them Both Association, which supports the amendment, raised about $4.7 million this year, with donations from regional Catholic dioceses amounting to more than $3 million, according to campaign finance reports released in July. Federal tax law prevents non-profits like churches from donating to political candidates but permits donations to broader causes.

Kansans for Constitutional Freedom, the main coalition opposing the amendment, raised about $6.5 million in 2022, including donations adding up to more than $1 million from Planned Parenthood groups. Kansas holds its primary elections for governor and other down-ballot races on Tuesday. Republicans typically turn out in greater numbers for the state’s primary elections than Democrats and independents, giving the proposed amendment a higher chance of passing, political analysts said.

The amendment’s fate could hinge on the turnout of the 29% of registered voters who are not affiliated with a political party, and young voters who may not like Democrats but want to protect abortion rights, according to Wichita State University political science professor Neal Allen. The ballot initiative is the first of several that will ask U.S. voters to weigh in on abortion rights this year. Kentucky, California, Vermont and possibly Michigan will have abortion on the ballot this fall.

(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)