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Landslide! Kansas Voters Protect Abortion Rights in State Constitution, Reject GOP-Led Ballot Measure

StoryAugust 03, 2022
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Nearly 60% of Kansas voters struck down a ballot measure Tuesday night that would have removed the state’s right to abortion and cleared the way for Republican state lawmakers to ban the procedure. It was the first vote on abortion rights since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. “Voters in Kansas have just proven that the will of the people can be a powerful tool to overrule the will of a Republican-dominated Legislature,” says reproductive health reporter Amy Littlefield, who calls the vote a “landslide.”

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!,, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González.

On Tuesday, Kansas became the first state to vote on abortion rights since the Supreme Court overturned Roe. Voters overwhelmingly rejected an anti-abortion constitutional amendment. Nearly 60% of Kansan voters opposed the ballot measure. The lopsided vote surprised many, since Donald Trump won Kansas by 15% in 2020. If the amendment had passed, it would have cleared the way for Republican state lawmakers to ban the procedure.

For more, we get an update from journalist Amy Littlefield, abortion access correspondent for The Nation, just in Kansas, where she was covering Tuesday’s vote, now joining us from Boston.

So, as you flew back, the results came in, Amy. Can you talk about the significance of this first state where voters actually had a say?

AMY LITTLEFIELD: Amy, this is incredible. This is huge. I mean, I was on Democracy Now! with you yesterday saying I thought this vote was going to be close. Everyone I was talking to thought this was going to be a nail-biter. Amy, this is not close at all. This is a landslide. OK? This is huge. And I was boarding a plane and flying out of Kansas as results were starting to trickle in. Right before the flight landed, I saw 60%. I thought, “Oh my gosh, there must be some sort of distortion. This is very low percentages coming in so far.” And that held throughout the night.

I think people in Kansas are stunned by their own enormous power right now, although I think there were signs that this was coming. There was an enormous amount of energy that went into this grassroots organizing effort. I think pro-choice people have known for a long time that they are a solid majority, even in states with conservative legislatures, but they’ve not always been a mobilized majority. And I think in Kansas right now we have a glimpse of what that majority can achieve when they mobilize.

And I think you’re going to hear a lot of people giving credit to the Supreme Court for today’s victory in Kansas. But I think the credit belongs with the grassroots organizers, the people who have been standing on street corners canvassing under the blazing sun and the pouring rain, phone banking, people who have never been involved in politics and people who have been involved in politics for years. I mean, this was just an incredible effort that brought about this victory. And I think it’s an incredibly strong signal about the will of the people versus the will of state legislatures and the Supreme Court.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Amy, certainly, the organizers of the “no” vote are to be congratulated, but there is a caveat here. We’re talking about a primary in the middle of August, where probably — do you have any sense of what percentage of the total electorate actually participated?

AMY LITTLEFIELD: I mean, that’s an incredibly important point, because that’s what Republicans in the state Legislature were banking on, right? They scheduled this for an August primary, thinking that, number one, turnout would be lower, and, number two, there were a lot of exciting Republican contested races the Democrats didn’t have, and so they thought Republicans would be turning out. I think numbers are still being counted, but the numbers that we’re seeing are on par with what was seen in the 2018 midterms. OK? And this is for an August primary, which is incredible.

I mean, I was at polling locations yesterday. There were lines out the door into the parking lot. People were starting to curve around. They were yelling at each other, “Hey, get into the shade.” So, I mean, people were — I talked to one woman who had put on a sun hat because she was expecting to stand out in the sun for a long time. I mean, people waited for a really long time in line to vote. So, this turnout was pretty amazing.

I keep thinking about this woman that I met on my way around reporting yesterday. She was just standing by the side of the road. Her name is Kathy Griffin, not the comedian. I’m talking about the former liquor store owner from Wichita. And she was standing out on the street corner with a “vote no” sign that said, “Laws don’t stop abortion,” and yelling, “Trust women. Jesus did,” at passing cars. She’s been out there every day, since even before the Supreme Court decision, because she knew this amendment vote was coming. And she told me, “You know that this 'vote no,' this abortion rights campaign, is probably going to fail, right?” because, in her words, Republicans have been “pretty darn sneaky” about how they had scheduled and managed this vote. And I can’t wait to call her back again today and see how she’s feeling, because this is just an astounding victory for her and the many other people like her who have been involved in this effort.

AMY GOODMAN: I mean, a Democratic governor is in office in Kansas, though the state voted by — Trump won by something like more than 15% in 2020. But the counties that passed this were many more than those who voted for the Democratic governor. I mean, what an amazing sign for things to come. And close to a million people voting, we’ve never seen anything like this, as you said, in a primary. Finally, what does this mean for the message for the November elections, where there are other constitutional amendments being voted on, like in Michigan?

AMY LITTLEFIELD: Right. I mean, I think we saw signs of this with Michigan. I mean, Michigan organizers, grassroots organizers, reproductive justice groups in Michigan managed to get a 10th of the state’s population to sign on — almost a million people — to sign on to an effort to put sweeping protection for reproductive freedom to the voters in the November election. There’s similar measures to enshrine reproductive freedom in California and Vermont coming up. So, I think we’re likely to see even more ballot initiatives aimed at expanding abortion access, because I think voters in Kansas have just proven that the will of the people can be a powerful tool to overrule the will of a Republican-dominated legislature.

AMY GOODMAN: Amy Littlefield, thanks so much for joining us, journalist covering reproductive healthcare, abortion access correspondent for The Nation, former producer for Democracy Now!

That does it for our show. Democracy Now! produced with Renée Feltz, Mike Burke, Messiah Rhodes, Nermeen Shaikh, María Taracena, Charina Nadura, Sam Alcoff, Tey-Marie Astudillo, John Hamilton, Robby Karran. I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan Gonnzález.

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