Los Angeles Times

Kansas voters showed how to keep abortion rights safe

The huge turnout and overwhelmi­ng decision should send a message to other states.

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In record numbers, Kansas voters went to the polls Tuesday and definitive­ly told conservati­ve state legislator­s to back off from trying to take away abortion rights. Voters across Democratic and Republican swaths of Kansas resounding­ly defeated a ballot measure that would have amended the state constituti­on to remove the right to abortion.

If they did it in Kansas, a state with a Republican supermajor­ity in the Legislatur­e, can voters do it elsewhere? They can — and should — vote for constituti­onal amendments that protect abortion rights and vote down amendments that won’t. And they can vote against candidates who would take away abortion rights. In fact, looking at the turnout and the resounding win in Kansas, the message to legislator­s who oppose abortion rights is: Your time is up.

If this is what the conservati­ve Supreme Court justices who overturned Roe vs. Wade meant about returning the decision to the states, then Kansans took that to heart and made their decision clear — they want their constituti­on to provide a right to an abortion.

The Republican-controlled Legislatur­e, which put the measure on the ballot, didn’t make it easy. It was confusing: “Yes” meant you didn’t support a right to abortion in the constituti­on. “No” meant you did support that right. The timing was challengin­g because the vote was held along with the state primary election. Since almost a third of Kansans are not affiliated with a party and there are few contested Democratic seats, many voters sit out the primaries.

Not this time. Voters turned out en masse and handed a stunning rebuke to the antiaborti­on legislator­s. With more than 95% of the vote reported Wednesday, the results were 58.8% to 41.2%. It took a lot of advocates on the ground in Kansas assembling a broad coalition to achieve a victory to protect constituti­onal rights. Their efforts resonated with liberals, moderates and conservati­ves. In fact, they couldn’t have gotten the win without reaching people from a variety of political background­s, including moderate Republican­s and others who may not want to see a constituti­onal right to choose blocked.

At a time when Congress seems incapable of protecting abortion rights, and the Biden administra­tion can only issue tepid executive orders on ways to protect women traveling across state lines to seek abortions, it’s energizing to see voters take care of business and deliver a no-nonsense statement on their rights. (The two Republican senators from Kansas might want to take a cue from their constituen­ts before they — again — vote against the Women’s Health Protection Act, which would codify the right to an abortion, when it comes up again for a vote.)

Many more states need to follow Kansas’ example. In those dominated by politicall­y opportunis­tic Republican­s currying favor with antiaborti­on groups, it will be up to the voters to show up and protect a woman’s right to choose.

There’s no reason why voters in Kentucky — where a constituti­onal amendment similar to the one in Kansas is on the November ballot — and in Michigan — where a constituti­onal amendment to protect abortion rights is expected to make the ballot — can’t make their voices heard as loudly and clearly as Kansans just did.

And voters in California and Vermont, where abortion rights are secure, can vote in November to enshrine abortion rights into their constituti­ons. That’s important, too.

 ?? Tammy Ljungblad Kansas City Star ?? ALLIE UTLEY, left, and Jae Moyer, center, react during a primary election watch party Tuesday at the Overland Park Convention Center in Kansas.
Tammy Ljungblad Kansas City Star ALLIE UTLEY, left, and Jae Moyer, center, react during a primary election watch party Tuesday at the Overland Park Convention Center in Kansas.

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