Why Kansas' August 2 Primaries Are Pivotal For Abortion Rights

June 24, 2022 was the day the Supreme Court overturned the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling (via NPR). This made abortion a state-by-state issue, and the decision was the "trigger" for a number of anti-abortion bans to become law in several states. It also meant the activation of abortion laws from pre-1973 in states that hadn't changed those laws, according to The Washington Post. It's a complicated patchwork of policies, some of which are currently being challenged in state courts. Depending on where they live, those needing a legal abortion may have to travel out of state, and a number of companies are taking a stand and providing their employees with the money, and/or the time off to go to another state to get an abortion as needed.

Some states are trying to outlaw interstate travel for an abortion. One organization is looking to help enact legislation similar to that in Texas that gives citizens the ability to sue someone helping a Texas resident get an abortion, even in another state, per The Washington Post. In Missouri, Representative Mary Coleman introduced legislation that would allow Missourians to sue out-of-state abortion providers; the proposal wasn't approved, as reported by WV Public Broadcasting. So currently, those Missourians needing an abortion can cross the state line into the neighboring state of Kansas to get the procedure. Kansas constitutionally protects the right to an abortion, and it currently provides abortions up until 22 weeks — with restrictions (via Guttmacher Institute). But that could potentially change.

Kansans are deciding if abortion should be protected by the state constitution

In the August 2 primaries, Kansans are faced with the Value Them Both amendment to the Kansas constitution. According to the ballot, the amendment "would affirm there is no Kansas constitutional right to abortion." A yes vote wouldn't make abortion illegal, but it would allow the Republican-controlled legislature to enact abortion bans. A no vote would uphold the 2019 precedent that — according to the Kansas Judicial Branch — determined the Kansas Constitution protects the right to abortion. A July poll on the issue put yes votes at 47%, no at 43%, and undecided at 10%.

With the Value Them Both amendment, Kansas is the first state with an abortion rights choice on the ballot after Roe v. Wade was overturned (via Politico). Campaigning on both sides has been intense, and millions have been spent by supporters and opponents of the amendment. One law professor believes the Kansas decision will be "the first bellwether" for the nation in regards to abortion rights, KCTV5 reported. 

Kansas is currently the closest place for some people in Missouri, Oklahoma, and Texas to go to get a legal abortion. One clinic — of the four in the state that provides abortions — in Wichita, Kansas said about 60% of their patients were from out of state (per CNBC). Over 60% of respondents in the 2021 "Kansas Speaks" survey didn't think abortion should be completely illegal in Kansas.