A guide to the abortion amendment on Kansas’ August ballot — what it says and what it means; plus a look at some statistics
photo by: Journal-World Photos
The voters of Kansas will be the first in the country to cast a ballot on whether protections for abortion should continue after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the 1973 landmark case Roe v. Wade, which guaranteed the constitutional right to abortion.
Kansans will vote on Aug. 2 on the so-called “Value Them Both” amendment to the Kansas Constitution. The result of the vote has added consequence after the Supreme Court’s conservative majority voted 5-4 on June 24 to overturn Roe, giving states the ability to ban abortion.
If approved, the Kansas amendment would reverse a 2019 Kansas Supreme Court decision that ruled the right to bodily autonomy in the state’s constitution included the right to decide whether to continue a pregnancy. The state court’s ruling found that right was fundamental, but still allows for abortion regulations as long as they pass “strict scrutiny,” which generally means the regulations must further a compelling governmental interest and must be narrowly tailored to achieve that interest.
There are already various regulations on abortion in Kansas, and the amendment would allow laws that completely ban or further limit abortions.
Here is some additional information about the amendment and abortion in Kansas:
What is the text of the amendment?
“Because Kansans value both women and children, the constitution of the state of Kansas does not require government funding of abortion and does not create or secure a right to abortion. To the extent permitted by the constitution of the United States, the people, through their elected state representatives and state senators, may pass laws regarding abortion, including, but not limited to, laws that account for circumstances of pregnancy resulting from rape or incest, or circumstances of necessity to save the life of the mother.”
How did this amendment come about?
Backed by anti-abortion supporters, Kansas Republican legislators voted in late January to put the amendment on the ballot for the state’s August primary election.
Who can vote on the amendment?
Though primary elections typically require voters to be registered with a political party, all registered Kansas voters regardless of party affiliation, including unaffiliated voters, can cast a vote on the abortion amendment. Unaffiliated voters will receive a ballot with only the proposed amendment.
What does a “no” vote mean?
A “no” vote maintains the legal precedent established by the 2019 Kansas Supreme Court decision, leaving the constitutional right to an abortion intact within the Kansas Constitution’s Bill of Rights. Rejecting the amendment does not change existing abortion regulations in Kansas law.
-What does a “yes” vote mean?
A “yes” vote would amend the Kansas Constitution’s Bill of Rights by adding a new section stating that there is no constitutional right to an abortion. The amendment would allow Kansas legislators to further restrict or completely ban abortion in the state.
What are current abortion regulations in Kansas?
Kansas law prohibits abortions after 22 weeks of gestation except in cases where it is necessary to save a patient’s life or to prevent “a substantial and irreversible physical impairment of a major bodily function.” By law, no government funding supports abortions.
A 24-hour waiting period is required ahead of an abortion, during which state-mandated information must be provided to patients. That includes information about adoption services and agencies that provide alternatives to abortion.
A minor generally cannot receive an abortion without notarized consent from both parents. After receiving required counseling, a minor must petition the district court for waiver of parental consent. The court shall provide a waiver if it finds by “clear and convincing evidence” that the minor is mature and well-informed enough to make the abortion decision or that obtaining consent is not in the best interest of the minor.
What are abortion statistics in Kansas?
About 70% of abortions in 2021 occurred prior to nine weeks of pregnancy, and 90% occurred prior to 12 weeks, according to an annual Kansas Department of Health and Environment report. About 6% occurred between 13 and 16 weeks and about 4% between 17 and 21 weeks.
About 68% of patients in 2021 had an abortion through medication, or by taking the abortion pill, while the remainder had an abortion procedure. Specifically, about 26% of patients had a suction procedure and 6% had a “dilation and evacuation” procedure, which uses suction and medical tools to clear the uterus.
About 60% of women who had an abortion in 2021 already had at least one child. About 59% of women who had an abortion in 2021 were between 20 and 29 years old. Minors made up 2.5% of all abortions in 2021.
Reporting of the number of abortions performed and state of residence of patients became mandatory in 1995. Between 1995 and 2021, the total number of abortions declined from 11,149 to 7,849. Over the past 10 years, the number of abortions has ranged between 6,820 (in 2016) and 7,885 (in 2011). In 2021, a total of 7,849 patients received abortions. About half of those patients were from out of state, with 3,912 being out-of-state residents and 3,937 being Kansas residents.
What are some of the arguments in favor of and against the amendment?
The anti-abortion group Kansans for Life states that the Kansas Supreme Court ruling “cleared the path for nearly unlimited abortion in Kansas” and that the amendment will ensure existing abortion regulations are protected.
The reproductive rights group Kansans for Constitutional Freedom states the amendment will allow for a total ban on abortion in Kansas and “hand our personal healthcare decisions over to politicians in Topeka.”
What are upcoming deadlines?
The last day to register to vote is July 12. The deadline to request an advance ballot to be mailed is July 26. Advance voting by mail and in-person begins on July 13 and continues on weekdays through July 29; on Saturday, July 30; and ends at noon on Aug. 1. Polls will be open on Aug. 2 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. More information and links to register to vote are available on the Douglas County Elections Office website.
Editor’s note: This story has been revised to show correct dates for early voting.