Kansas Voters Defend Freedom

In the wake of the Supreme Court overturning Roe v Wade and ending Constitutional protections for abortion rights, conservative politicians in many states have moved to pass laws prohibiting abortion within their states. In some states, legislatures passed “trigger laws” before the Court ruling – laws that would go into effect if the Court ruled to end Roe v Wade.

In other states, legislators moved right after the ruling in Dobbs to pass new laws against abortion. And in some states conservatives relied on laws passed before Roe v Wade, but never repealed, which were then invoked.

In Kansas Republican politicians took a more extreme step. They qualified a proposed amendment to the Kansas Constitution that would declare that the Kansas Constitution does not guarantee a right to abortion, given the state government the power to prosecute individuals involved in abortion, and stated that the Kansas government is not required to fund abortions.

In 2019 the Kansas Supreme Court had ruled that the state Constitution protected a woman’s access to abortion. The Kansas Bill of Rights states that “all men are possessed of equal and inalienable natural rights.” The Court ruled that this clause includes “a woman’s right to make decisions about her body.”

In response the legislature voted to put the amendment – titled “Value Them Both” on the state ballot. The proposition was scheduled for a vote during the state-wide primary election, August 2, 2022. It was believed that some hot contests in the Republican primary would bring out many conservative voters; with few contested Democrat primaries, it was believed that turnout by moderate and liberal voters would be lower. It was also believed that non-affiliated voters – the largest part of the Kansas electorate – would not vote because they could not vote in candidate contests in the primary.

The Value Them Both amendment was backed by Catholic dioceses throughout Kansas, protestant evangelical groups, along with numerous opportunistic Republican politicians. Kansans for Constitutional Freedom (Kansansforfreedom.com) was organized as a nonpartisan coalition to oppose the amendment.

The Kansas Libertarian Party also supported a “No” vote on Value Them Both. https://lpks.org/2022/06/30/bodily-autonomy-resolution/

And Kansas Libertarians were active in the campaign https://lpks.org/2022/07/15/803/

In putting the proposed amenment on the ballot, the legislature clearly explained what the effect would be if Kansas voters rejected the amendment. The statement at the end of the ballot paper explained:”A vote against the Value Them Both Amendment would make no change in the Constitution of the state of Kansas, and could restrict the people, through their elected state legislators, from regulating abortion by leaving in place the recently recognized right to abortion.”

On August 2, polling places found themselves jammed with voters, including large numbers of non-affiliated voters who turned out just to vote against the anti-abortion amendment. In the first public vote on the abortion issue since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v Wade, the amendment to end abortion rights in Kansas went down to defeat.

It is clear that there was a large turnout in the Republican primary. More than 451,000 votes were cast in the Republican primary for Governor; the Democrat primary for Governor only saw 276,000 votes. In the Senate primary, Republican candidates received more than 464,000 votes; Democrat Senate candidates could only pull 226,000 votes. It would seem that the strategy of the anti-abortion conservatives should have succeeded, but it didn’t.

Not reflected in the votes for candidates in the partisan primary, large numbers of unaffiliated voters turned out, a clear majority of them to vote No on the Amendment. It would also appear that there were Republicans who still oppose government overreach. With current numbers, the Value Them Both Amendment is losing with 58% of voters voting NO.

The campaign against the Amendment was explicitly libertarian. The Los Angeles Times quotes Rachel Sweet, the campaign manager for Kansans for Constitutional Freedom:“Kansans across the political spectrum believe in personal liberty and freedom,” she said. “They understand that we must protect our constitutional rights and freedom to make private medical decisions, including those about abortion.”
https://www.latimes.com/world-nation/story/2022-08-04/how-abortion-rights-were-won-in-conservative-kansas

The Times also mentions “In one ad, Kansans for Constitutional Freedom framed the measure as a “strict government mandate designed to interfere with private medical decisions,” and showed images that linked abortion restrictions to vaccine and mask mandates.”

In conservative Kansas, more people voted NO on the Value Them Both Amendment than voted for any Republican candidate in a contested primary. With 98% of votes counted, Derek Schmidt, victor in the Republican primary for Governor, has received 365,031 votes. With 98.2% counted, Jerry Moran won the Republican primary for US Senate with 374,994 votes (and counting). With 97.3% of votes tallied, 538,847 NO votes have been counted on the Value Them Both Amendment. A message to Republicans – in traditionally Republican Kansas, Abortion Rights are more popular than any Republican candidate.

A message to The Libertarian National Committee: in the first vote on Abortion Rights after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v Wade, the Libertarian message of personal freedom won an outstanding victory, with the support of Kansas Libertarians. Do you yet have any second thoughts about what you are doing to the Party of Liberty?

(By Gene Berkman, Editor, California Libertarian Report)

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