The right to an abortion will remain in the Kansas Constitution.

In the first ballot test of abortion rights in a post-Roe America, Kansas voters turned out in historic numbers to overwhelmingly reject a constitutional amendment that would have opened the door for state lawmakers to further restrict or ban abortions across the state.

The Associated Press called the race at 9:40 p.m. The vote “no” campaign led 59% to 41% after all precincts in the state had reported.

The vote stands as a major win for abortion rights advocates, preserving access in a red state as the procedure is banned or severely restricted in much of the region. It wasn’t just urban counties, like Democratic-leaning Wyandotte County, that turned out to protect abortion rights. Rural counties like Osage, Franklin and Lyon also voted “no” by significant margins.

Iman Alsaden, Chief Medical Officer for Planned Parenthood Great Plains hugged Rachel Sweet, campaign manager for Kansans for Constitutional Freedom, as they celebrated a victory at the polls Tuesday, August 2, 2022, at the Overland Park Convention Center, 6000 College Blvd. The group backed a ‘No’ vote on the constitutional amendment, which if passed, removes the right to an abortion from the Kansas constitution. Tammy Ljungblad

Shortly after 10 p.m., Iman Alsaden, chief medical officer at Planned Parenthood Great Plains, said she was still processing the vote.

“I am sort of speechless. I’m so proud to be a provider in this community. I’m so proud that I get to serve this community. I moved here two years ago from Chicago with the intention of providing abortion care in a place where there were not a lot of providers,”

Alsaden said. “It’s sort of unbelievable. I’m so proud to be able to go to work tomorrow and talk to my staff and give everyone a hug.

” The vote upholds a 2019 Kansas Supreme Court ruling that, in response to an attempt to ban a common second trimester abortion procedure, said Kansans had a right to bodily autonomy and therefore the right to terminate a pregnancy.

The movement against the amendment succeeded in turning out a wide swath of no voters, despite the amendment’s placement on a primary ballot many assumed would favor conservatives because of the greater number of GOP primaries.

They were able to stay competitive in rural counties, keeping the loss margin in western Kansas smaller than anticipated. Secretary of State Scott Schwab said early in the evening that anecdotal evidence indicated the turnout could match the 2008 presidential race— 63.3%.

More than $12 million was poured into the 20-month campaign. The race drew national eyes as a potential bellwether for how voters in a Republican state would respond to the abortion question once federally protected rights are gone. In a statement after the race was called, the Value Them Both Coalition blamed their loss on “an onslaught of misinformation from radical left organizations” spread by the “mainstream media.

” The coalition blocked several media outlets from their election night watch party, including The Kansas City Star and The Wichita Eagle.

Hannah Joerger, left, Amanda Grosserode, center, and Mara Loughman hug after a Value Them Both watch party after a question involving a constitutional amendment removing abortion protections from the Kansas constitution failed, Tuesday, Aug. 2, 2022, in Overland Park, Kan. Charlie Riedel AP

“While the outcome is not what we hoped, our movement and campaign have proven our resolve and commitment. We will not abandon women and babies,” the statement said before calling for more support for pregnancy resource centers and post-abortion ministries.

The campaign against the amendment was fueled by a late June U.S. Supreme Court ruling (and late spring leak) eliminating federal protections for abortion rights found in Roe v. Wade.

“I think the Dobbs decision definitely felt like a gut punch to a lot of folks in our community and I know it did for me for sure. But once we caught our breath, we stood up straight, we got to work,” U.S. Rep. Sharice Davids, D-Kansas, told a crowd at a “vote no” watch party early in the night.

As Kansas’ neighbors, Oklahoma and Missouri, promptly banned abortion, and then struggled through confusion about the laws, forces on both sides of the issue in Kansas dove into one of the most expensive ballot initiative campaigns in state history.

The coalition against the amendment won over voters in the red state with messaging that appealed to libertarian sensibilities – warning about government control over private health care decisions and future bans on abortion.

In a speech after the victory was announced, Rachel Sweet, campaign manager for Kansans for Constitutional Freedom, highlighted the focus on nonpartisan campaigning.

“We did the work of finding common ground,” she said.

“We got Kansas to have that conversation.”

Advocates for the amendment insisted that the vote would not directly ban abortion. They refused to answer questions about whether they’d seek a ban if it passed, even after Roe was overturned and the National Right to Life Committee published detailed model legislation to ban abortion in all 50 states.

Instead they sought to convince Kansans that, without a change to state the constitution, abortion would be rendered unregulated and uninhibited in the state. Kansas, they said, was guaranteed to be a destination for abortion.

Troy Newman, president of the anti-abortion group Operation Rescue, said he was devastated by the results and criticized Kansans for Life and the Value Them Both Coalition for poor messaging. “Today’s vote was a once in a decade vote and we lost,” Newman said.

“It’s a terrible defeat, there’s no way around it. And not for us, for the babies.

” The amendment proved to be a major driving force for primary voters, and many didn’t buy the “vote yes” campaign’s message.

Voters outside an Olathe polling place last week cited the amendment as the most important issue on the ballot. John Bundrick, a 33-year-old Olathe resident, voted with his young children in tow.

“We believe that life starts at conception and that every human has this God-given right,” he said. “Obviously she’s a mother and values what she does with her body but at the same time, having a little one inside is also a body that needs to be respected.”

People listen to a speaker at an election watch party for Value Them Both, a group in favor of a constitutional amendment removing abortion protections from the Kansas constitution, Tuesday, Aug. 2, 2022, in Overland Park, Kan. Charlie Riedel AP

Sarah Heckman arrived to vote “no” with her mother. The 23-year-old said she normally doesn’t vote in primaries, but this vote was different. “It sets a precedent for the rest of the nation,” she said.

Even in traditionally red, rural counties, “no” voters turned out. In central Kansas’ Chase County, 527 of 1,093 voters opted to reject the amendment. In western Meade and Trego counties, “no” votes commanded about 30% of the vote.

The race was watched closely by national organizations on both sides of the issue, and in the political arena. Kansas’ commanding rejection of the amendment may serve as an indication that abortion rights will be a winning issue for Democrats this November and turn the tide on what was expected to be a Republican wave.

In a statement, President Joe Biden used the results to call on Congress to codify Roe into federal law.

“This vote makes clear what we know: the majority of Americans agree that women should have access to abortion and should have the right to make their own health care decisions,” he said. The “no” campaign received funds from national groups that advocate for abortion rights including the Sixteen Thirty Fund, Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union.

Susan B. Anthony Pro-life America invested $1.3 million campaigning for the anti-abortion amendment in Kansas. The Catholic church in Kansas positioned itself as a primary driver of fundraising and campaigning for the amendment.

“This is the first but certainly not the only opportunity that we’re going to have to get a sense of where the American people are at,” said Mallory Carroll, vice president of communications at Susan B. Anthony Pro-life America. “Outside the context of ballot initiatives when we’re talking to legislators at both the state and federal level is to be the most ambitious as possible as you can for life.”


The amendment’s failure ensures that, at least for now, Kansas will be an access point for abortion in the Great Plains.

Only four clinics operate in the state currently, two in Wichita and two in Overland Park. But the state has long been among the easiest options for Kansas City, Missouri.

Kansas clinics have seen increased call volumes since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe as access to the procedure across the region narrows. But it’s unclear at this point whether clinics will expand to accommodate more out of state patients.

In a statement, Trust Women, a Wichita abortion clinic, celebrated the vote and said they would prioritize providing care to women across the region and work to “expand and restore meaningful access to local abortions for all Kansans.”

“We cannot be content with the status quo. The loss of Roe has brought with it an unprecedented and manufactured health care crisis that is not solved by this election, but will significantly impact the state of reproductive health care across our region for years to come,” the statement said. Emily Wales, president of Planned Parenthood Great Plains Votes, applauded Kansans for putting “health care over politics.”

“Now, more than ever, our work continues. Planned Parenthood Great Plains has served Kansas for decades and tomorrow, we’ll wake up and do just that – but with the reassurance that people in Kansas will continue to make medical decisions that are best for their health, their lives, and their futures,” Wales said in a statement. But the amendment’s failure will not mark an end to the abortion debate in Kansas.

Though the amendment’s failure is a setback for anti-abortion activists, the issue has long held a prominent space in Kansas politics, and activists signaled they have no plans to give up.

As early as November, they’ll have the opportunity to attempt to oust members of the Supreme Court who declared abortion to be a right. Ousting judges could be a pathway to overturning the 2019 decision.

“I certainly think there’s a pathway with a different composition of judges,” said Elizabeth Kirk, director for the Center for Law and the Human Person at Catholic University. “It could be overturned if a future court thought that nothing in the 1859 state constitution included a right to abortion.

” The majority of the Kansas Supreme Court is currently made up of justices appointed by Democratic governors. But all but one of those justices is up for retention this year.

Kansans for Constitutional Freedom and supporters gathered for an election watch party Tuesday, August 2, 2022, at the Overland Park Convention Center, 6000 College Blvd. The group backed a ‘No’ vote on the constitutional amendment, which if passed, removes the right to an abortion from the Kansas constitution. One supporter had a Ruth Bader Ginsberg doll on hand. Tammy Ljungblad

“If the amendment fails the other way to ban abortion in Kansas is change who’s on the supreme court,” said Patrick Miller, a University of Kansas political scientist.

“There’s another opening for conservatives this year.” If abortion rights advocates sued to overturn Kansas’ anti-abortion laws, as the primary “vote yes” campaign predicted, years of litigation lay ahead.

Otherwise, lawmakers will likely seek ways around the 2019 decision. And anti-abortion activists could try as soon as January to persuade a supermajority of lawmakers to place the amendment back on the ballot. State Rep. Brenda Landwehr, a Wichita Republican, said in an interview last month that the state will have to find a way to regulate abortion as much as possible.

“I just hope that people realize that if this amendment does not pass Kansas could be a state that has zero regulations on abortion,” she said.

Kansas currently heavily restricts abortion but advocates of the amendment have argued existing laws could be overturned under the 2019 ruling. But abortion rights advocates also say their fight isn’t over. Sonja Kudulis, 24, of Overland Park, went door to door in the KC metro last weekend and was intimidated at first.

But she said “even people who didn’t agree too much (with us) were happy to talk one-on-one” about the issue.

She will feel “relief and excitement.

But let’s celebrate for a couple of days and get back to work.”