January 27, 2023

“Abortion rights supporters now have the opportunity and obligation to rebuild pro-choice voting coalitions in states where access has been lost or endangered,” said Rachel Sweet of Kansans for Constitutional Freedom, the group fighting the amendment. led. reporters Wednesday morning. “The people of Kansas have spoken and now the rest of the country must listen.”

Cheering for anti-abortion advocates since the Supreme Court overturned roe in June the mood in Kansas was a crushing blow, but they insist it won’t change their strategy.

It’s a long game, and there are more tools in the toolbox than ballots, emphasized Kristi Hamrick of Students for Life of America — one of several national groups that placed ads and sent volunteers to the canvas for the Kansas amendment.

“It took us 50 years to deal with us” roe. I think we have the time and the people on our side to keep the fight going,” she said.

Among the more notable results of the 59 to 41 win because the “no” campaign was that anti-abortion groups underperformed in even the reddest parts of the state, such as the rural counties along the Colorado border, giving progressives an injection of hope that their message will extend beyond cities this fall. and suburbs can resonate.

Patrick Gaspard, the CEO of the Democratic Party-aligned Center for American Progress Action Fund, is now closing, and there was no greater example of that than yesterday in Kansas. told reporters Wednesday. “This could be a signal for things to come.”

The Kansas win also encourages progressive organizations like the Fairness Project, a national group advocating for ballot measures as a strategy to sidestep GOP legislators and governors on everything from Medicaid expansion to transgender rights and abortion.

“Ballot initiatives are a phenomenally powerful tool when there’s a mismatch between the popularity of an issue and what’s being promulgated by politicians. And every poll in the country shows there is no connection when it comes to abortion rights,” said Fairness Project Executive Director Kelly Hall. “This is really the next frontier, and proponents are already starting to think about the paths for 2023 and 2024.”

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While less than half of states allow citizens to collect signatures to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot, Hall said many of those who do “are on the front lines of the fight for reproductive freedom.” including Arizona, Idaho, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, and South Dakota.

On Wednesday, as the dust settled on the Kansas vote, progressives were already urging members of like-minded Facebook groups to help collect signatures to propose an abortion rights amendment to Missouri voters by 2023.

“Some of these places you think are so deep red that no measure to protect abortion could ever succeed,” she said. “But don’t write off these states. Wherever you live, there is hope on the horizon.”

The Kansas Contest, the first to give abortion rights directly to voters since roe was destroyed, always had the potential to shape the national conversation, and both sides put millions of dollars into TV, radio, mail and digital advertising. Hundreds of staff and volunteers arrived from all over the country to knock on hundreds of thousands of doors. Celebrities and musicians with ties to the state have released videos urging their fans to go to the polls.

But it was the abortion rights messages that shaped the debate around individual rights in language familiar to conservatives that resonated with voters and caused the amendment to fail, said Neal Allen, an associate professor of political science at Wichita State University.

“The rhetoric of the ‘no’ campaign about the scope of government and intrusion into personal lives was very successful,” he told POLITICO. “Meanwhile, a major failure on the ‘yes’ side is that they failed to appear credible to voters when they said the amendment would not lead to an abortion ban. If you had read the amendment, it was not clear what it would actually do. But we had several examples of anti-abortion activists and lawmakers talking publicly about wanting a total ban. And that really hurt them.”

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The results were even more striking as the anti-abortion side, which started planning the voting initiative in 2019, had several advantages. Not only did GOP lawmakers choose the wording of the amendment, they scheduled the vote for the primary in August, when turnout is usually lower than in the general election. They also knew that there were no competitive Democratic primaries, and that unaffiliated voters — who are larger in the state than Democrats — can’t vote for candidates in the primaries and may not have known they could run on Tuesday.

But that move failed, Allen argued.

“The conservative Republicans in the state legislature really missed an opportunity when they said it should be in the primaries this year and not the 2020 general election,” he said. “2020 was a pretty good year for Republicans here. Roe v. Wade would still have been in place, and voters would not have the example of other states with total abortion bans.”

Against all odds, turnout rose Tuesday, approaching general presidential election levels in some areas.

Conservative groups that had spent the past few months in Kansas advocating for abortion to be handed over to voters lamented the results, blaming “lies that ultimately drowned out the truth,” and pledged their efforts in Sunflower State and around the United States to double. country.

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For some, that means going to court and focusing on narrower issues, such as the laws surrounding access to abortion pills.

“We have to prioritize, and I think we will prioritize lawsuits related to chemical abortion,” Hamrick said. “That’s a very effective place for us for lawsuits, especially knowing that this is the future of abortion. Everyone will have to choose and that is one that we will definitely choose.”

Anti-abortion groups are also investing tens of millions in congressional races in hopes of overturning the House and Senate and enacting national abortion restrictions, even as they continue to campaign at the state and local levels.

Kansas GOP chairman Mike Kuckelman insisted that despite the results of the referendum, abortion in November will not be decisive and Republicans still have a good chance of ousting Democratic incumbents like Governor Laura Kelly.

“I don’t see the average person going to a polling station with abortion in mind and saying, ‘I have to vote for this person or against that person because of the abortion issue,’” he said. “I think people go to their polling stations and think about how they’re not very happy with the state of our economy.”

But anti-abortion proponents, such as Mallory Carroll with SBA Pro-Life America, forcing state and federal lawmakers not to walk away from abortion as a campaign issue.

“The lesson that pro-life candidates should learn from this is that you need to crank up the contrast and go on the attack,” she said. “Republicans can’t just rely on gas prices, inflation, and economic issues, even if they’re very salient issues, because that gives the pro-abortion Democrats room to define our pro-life candidates on this issue, and that’s what can’t.” to happen.”