Will abortion be on more state ballots after Kansas vote?

Aug 4, 2022, 1:49 AM | Updated: 1:54 pm
Allie Utley, left, and Jae Moyer, center, of Overland Park, react during a primary watch party Tues...

Allie Utley, left, and Jae Moyer, center, of Overland Park, react during a primary watch party Tuesday, Aug. 2, 2022, at the Overland Park (Kan.) Convention Center. Kansas voters on Tuesday protected the right to get an abortion in their state, rejecting a measure that would have allowed their Republican-controlled Legislature to tighten abortion restrictions or ban it outright. (Tammy Ljungblad/The Kansas City Star via AP)

(Tammy Ljungblad/The Kansas City Star via AP)

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Abortion opponents were shocked and abortion rights advocates energized by a decisive statewide vote in heavily Republican Kansas this week in favor of protecting abortion access, yet it’s not likely to translate into new abortion votes across the U.S. in the November election.

Four other states — California, Kentucky, Michigan and Vermont — could have votes in November on abortion access, and a fifth, Montana, is voting on a measure that would require abortion providers to give lifesaving treatment to a fetus that is born alive after a botched abortion. Opponents argue federal law already offers those protections. No other abortion initiatives are likely to make a state’s November ballot.

The Kansas vote was the first test of public feeling about abortion rights since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in late June, and it upended political assumptions.

Voters rejected a proposed amendment to the Kansas Constitution declaring that it grants no right to abortion. That would have opened the door for the GOP-controlled Legislature to further restrict or ban abortion and nullify a 2019 decision by the Kansas Supreme Court that access is a “fundamental” right under the state’s Bill of Rights.


Abortion rights supporters prevailed by nearly 18 percentage points in the Republican state with deep ties to the anti-abortion movement. They took the outcome as confirmation that preserving access to abortion is popular.

Officials with several national abortion rights groups argued that the vote shows it’s a mistake for Democrats in red states like Kansas to avoid talking about abortion and that support for abortion rights can drive voters to the polls. In Kentucky, donations to the abortion rights cause poured in immediately, said Tamarra Wieder, state director for Planned Parenthood Alliance Advocates.

The election in Kansas coincided with the state’s primary. Over the previous 10 years, turnout for a mid-term primary has averaged less than 26%, with Republicans casting twice as many ballots as Democrats.

But turnout for this election topped 45% — almost 915,000 voters — approaching levels normally seen during a fall election for governor. More than half of registered Democrats and Republicans cast ballots. At least 28% of registered unaffiliated voters, who couldn’t vote on anything else on ballots on Tuesday, voted on the proposed amendment.

The outcome also suggested that a sizeable number of Republicans voted against the proposed amendment.

“Three things in Kansas are really important to note: One, the depth of the victory; two, the amount of increased voter turnout, and three, that it happened in an off-year midterm election,” said Kristen Rowe-Finkbeiner, CEO of MomsRising, an advocacy group that supports abortion rights.

Abortion opponents argued that the vote was a temporary setback and vowed to keep electing anti-abortion candidates.


Likely not. For one thing, deadlines to do it have passed in the half of U.S. states that allow voters to put questions on the ballot without going through the Legislature.

In Ohio, the Democratic nominee for governor, Nan Whaley, has called for putting an abortion rights measure on the ballot as early as next year, and efforts have started in Colorado and South Dakota for 2024. In Iowa, GOP lawmakers have taken the first step toward putting an anti-abortion measure on the ballot in 2024.

In Kansas, anti-abortion lawmakers anticipated voters approving their measure.


Yes, but those efforts were all underway before the Kansas vote.

Legislators in California and Vermont put measures to protect abortion rights on the ballot, and Kentucky lawmakers have a measure on the ballot similar to the one that failed in Kansas.

In Michigan, abortion rights advocates believe they have turned in enough signatures to put an abortion rights amendment to the state constitution on the November ballot, but the signatures must still be counted.

The Montana referendum also was initiated by legislators.


They have to circulate petitions and collect tens of thousands of signatures from registered voters; the number is often a percentage of the vote in a previous election. Some states set requirements to get signatures from across the state, not just in one or two metropolitan areas.

In Nebraska, abortion opponents are focused on gaining one more seat in its one-house Legislature for the two-thirds majority necessary to overcome filibusters and pass an abortion ban. A voter initiative there must gather nearly 88,000 signatures from at least 5% of the registered voters in 38 of its 93 counties, something known as the “two-fifths rule.”

In Missouri, initiatives can take a year to get to the ballot, and in Oklahoma, the average length has been more than a year — 64 weeks — over the past 10 years, according to the secretary of state’s office.

“From start to finish, if you could get it done in nine months, you’d really be moving fast,” said Amber England, a political strategist in Oklahoma who has worked to get questions on the ballot in recent years.

The Ballot Initiative Strategy Center, which advises progressive groups on campaigning for ballot questions, advises that the work should take three years, including building community relationships before even circulating signatures.


Not necessarily. There can be other hurdles, particularly if public officials who are players in the process oppose an initiative.

In Missouri in 2019, opponents of a law banning most abortions after eight weeks of pregnancy sought to get a proposed repeal on the ballot, but Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft, a Republican who opposes abortion, took enough time in vetting the language that supporters had only two weeks to gather signatures. While the initiative’s backers sued — and won — the final ruling from the state Supreme Court didn’t come until early this year.

“It was a significant victory,” said Mallory Schwarz, executive director of Pro-Choice Missouri. “But we didn’t get a do-over.”


Hollingsworth reported from Mission, Kansas. Also contributing were Sean Murphy in Oklahoma City, Scott McFetridge in Des Moines, Iowa, and Julie Carr Smyth in Columbus, Ohio.


Follow John Hanna on Twitter: https://twitter.com/apjdhanna

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


FILE - Hiring signs are displayed at a grocery store in Arlington Heights, Ill., Jan. 13, 2023. Emp...
Associated Press

Pay transparency is spreading. Here’s what you need to know

U.S. employers are increasingly posting salary ranges for job openings, even in states where it’s not required by law, according to analysts with several major job search websites.
12 hours ago
Meadowdale High School 9th grade students Juanangel Avila, right, and Legacy Marshall, left, work t...
David Klepper and Manuel Valdes, Associated Press

Seattle high school teacher advocates for better digital literacy in schools

Shawn Lee, a high school social studies teacher in Seattle, wants to see lessons on internet akin to a kind of 21st century driver's education, an essential for modern life.
12 hours ago
South Carolina Senators hear from the parents of people who died from fentanyl overdose on Jan. 19,...
Associated Press

With overdoses up, states look at harsher fentanyl penalties

State lawmakers nationwide are responding to the deadliest overdose crisis in U.S. history by pushing harsher penalties for possessing fentanyl and other powerful lab-made opioids that are connected to about 70,000 deaths a year.
12 hours ago
FILE - In this July 3, 2014, file photo, the Microsoft Corp. logo is displayed outside the Microsof...
Associated Press

Microsoft adds AI tools to Office apps like Outlook, Word

Microsoft is infusing artificial intelligence tools into its Office software, including Word, Excel and Outlook emails.
3 days ago
FILE - This photo provided by the Alaska Volcano Observatory/U.S. Geological Survey shows the Tanag...
Associated Press

Alaska volcanoes now pose lower threat, after quakes slow

Diminished earthquake activity led authorities Thursday to reduce the warning levels at two volcanoes on an uninhabited island in Alaska’s Aleutian chain because of the decreased potential for eruptions.
3 days ago
A television screen displaying financial news is seen inside one of First Republic Bank's branches ...
Associated Press

Big banks create $30B rescue package for First Republic

NEW YORK (AP) — Eleven of the biggest U.S. banks Thursday announced a $30 billion rescue package for First Republic Bank in an effort to prevent it from becoming the third to fail in less than a week and head off a broader banking crisis. San Francisco-based First Republic serves a similar clientele as Signature […]
4 days ago

Sponsored Articles

SHIBA volunteer...

Volunteer to help people understand their Medicare options!

If you’re retired or getting ready to retire and looking for new ways to stay active, becoming a SHIBA volunteer could be for you!
safety from crime...

As crime increases, our safety measures must too

It's easy to be accused of fearmongering regarding crime, but Seattle residents might have good reason to be concerned for their safety.
Comcast Ready for Business Fund...
Ilona Lohrey | President and CEO, GSBA

GSBA is closing the disparity gap with Ready for Business Fund

GSBA, Comcast, and other partners are working to address disparities in access to financial resources with the Ready for Business fund.

Medicare open enrollment is here and SHIBA can help!

The SHIBA program – part of the Office of the Insurance Commissioner – is ready to help with your Medicare open enrollment decisions.
Lake Washington Windows...

Choosing Best Windows for Your Home

Lake Washington Windows and Doors is a local window dealer offering the exclusive Leak Armor installation.
Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Will abortion be on more state ballots after Kansas vote?