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Kansas Pro-Life Defeat Challenges Expectations for Post-Roe America

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The pro-life movement in the United States suffered a significant defeat in this Tuesday’s elections after a majority of Kansas voters decided against a Constitutional Amendment that would explicitly say there is no constitutional right for an abortion in the state’s constitution. The Kansas pro-life defeat is the first election over abortion since the Supreme Court overturned Roe earlier this June and not exactly the most promising start of the post-roe America that pro-life activists hoped for.

With 96% of the votes counted, the “no” option —which would maintain abortion as a constitutional right— won with a whopping 58.8% of the vote to the “yes” option, which only mustered 41.2% of the vote. Most interestingly was the high turnout of the referendum. More than 800,000 people cast their ballots in the election, a significantly higher number than those who voted in the state’s Democrat and Republican primaries combined.

Abortion in Kansas is considered an inherent right in the state’s constitution due to a 2019 ruling of the Kansas Supreme Court. However, state law does prohibit abortions after the 22nd week of pregnancy. The result of the referendum means that abortion in Kansas will remain legal for the foreseeable future and is a considerable setback for pro-life organizations—which scored their most significant success earlier this year after the overturn of Roe.

The result is also an unexpected defeat for conservative and pro-life groups as Kansas has been a reliantly conservative state for decades, which has voted Republican for every candidate for President since 1964 and has only elected Republican Senators since at least 1984. Pro-life activists in other conservative states where abortion is legal, like Indiana or Iowa, might rethink their strategy in their fight against abortion in their states.

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The referendum in Kansas was the first electoral test of the post-roe era on abortion politics (EFE)

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Energizing the 2020 Biden voters was crucial in the Kansas Pro-life defeat

The defeat of the constitutional amendment can be explained with a simple analysis: Pro-abortion activists managed to rally almost 100% of the 2020 Biden voter base in this referendum, while pro-life campaigners didn’t get even half of the voters who supported Trump in the last election to cast their votes in the referendum.

While it is true that there might have been pro-abortion Trump supporters or pro-life Biden voters, the 2020 results are a workable baseline from which to understand the reason why the Kansas pro-life movement lost this Tuesday.

In 2020, approximately 570,000 Kansans voted for the Democrat candidate Joe Biden for the presidency— a number dwarfed by more than 770,000 people who delivered Kansas to the Trump campaign. For the pro-abortion movement to win the referendum, they would need to energize the Democrat voters and hope pro-lifers did not come as strong as Republicans did in 2020.

That was precisely what happened. The “No” option had 534,134 votes, just 36,000 shies of the 2020 Biden result, an impressive number for an election held during primary season. The “Yes” option only got 374,611 votes, less than 50% of the Trump 2020 vote share.

The Kansas pro-abortion campaign managed to get almost the same number of votes Biden did in 2020 (EFE)

The pro-life campaign did manage to get more than 80% of the voters who voted in the Republican Primary. Had the pro-abortion movement only relied on the people who voted in the Democrat primary, they would remain far behind in the election, as only 209,836 people voted. However, the pro-abortion campaign appears to have energized more voters than the Democratic primary, as they more than doubled the total votes of that election.

As a result, the pro-abortion campaign won in counties that voted Republican in 2020. Sedgwick County, where the city of Wichita is located, voted decisively (57.7%) against the amendment, but in 2020, Trump easily won the county with 54.7% of the vote. Moreover, Sedgwick followed the election pattern; while the pro-abortion campaign got almost all of the ballots Biden had in 2020 (81,000 out of 91,000), the pro-life option only got 59,540 votes from the 122,416 Trump garnered in the 2020 election.

The difference is quite evident when comparing the number of counties won by Biden in 2020 and the pro-abortion movement in 2022. The current president only won four counties in his election. In comparison, the pro-abortion campaign won 18 counties in this election, mainly because the pro-life option could not energize the same number of voters in 2020.

The Kansas pro-life defeat might bring some bad news to the victorious pro-life movement; if pro-abortion campaigners can energize their voters more than the pro-life activists (like what happened in Kansas), then the fight over abortion laws in states like Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Alaska, Arizona, and others will be a very difficult one.

 

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