Kansas Abortion Vote: Why Did The Pro-Life Amendment Fail?
The referendum represented the first major statewide vote on abortion following the overturning of Roe v. Wade.
The reason a pro-life amendment — known as the “Value Them Both” amendment — recently failed in Kansas boils down to misinformation and messaging, according to a Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America spokeswoman.
“I think ultimately it came down to chaos, confusion, and lies ruling the day,” Mallory Carroll, the vice president of communications for the national pro-life organization, told CNA. “The pro-abortion movement was very successful at claiming that this vote was going to be a vote to stop all abortion in Kansas and put women’s lives at risk.”
The referendum represented the first major statewide vote on abortion following the overturning of Roe v. Wade. With over 95% of ballots counted as of Thursday afternoon, Kansas voters rejected the pro-life amendment by about 59% to 41% during their state’s primary election.
The amendment, if approved, would have reversed the Kansas Supreme Court’s 2019 ruling that the state’s constitution protects a woman’s right to abortion. The ruling threatens existing Kansas laws, including a general ban on abortion 22 weeks or later into pregnancy.
Currently, state lawmakers are, in most cases, prohibited from passing any type of abortion restriction. The amendment would have enabled state lawmakers to pass legislation to regulate or restrict abortion.
Ahead of the vote, SBA Pro-Life America invested $1.4 million in a Kansas voter education campaign which included digital ads, TV, radio, and mail as well as visits to more than 250,000 Kansas homes.
Carroll called the advertising from pro-abortion activists “incredibly deceptive and ultimately successful.”
“A lot of people worked really hard, we contacted a lot of voters, but the message that the pro-abortion movement was pushing, that this was going to lead to women literally dying, was more effective and salient,” Carroll said. “It really raises the stakes for upcoming elections and underscores how important it is that, both as a pro-life movement and individual pro-life candidates, need to be really clear about what it is that we stand for.”
That includes, she said, “that we are supporting protections for unborn children and women, and that we‘re not advocating for the criminalization of women or anything that’s going to put moms in jeopardy.”
After the amendment’s failure, Carroll refused to be discouraged and looked to the future instead.
“We just won a 50-year-long battle to ensure that Americans could use the democratic process to make their voices heard and as disappointing as this decision was in Kansas, it is the people using the tools left to us by our founders and we must carry on,” she said, referring to the overturning of Roe v. Wade. “This is just the first of many opportunities that voters are going to have to make their voices heard on the life issue.”
She added: “We have to stay engaged and keep up the spirit of perseverance that has gotten us through these last five decades under Roe.”
The vote has broad implications that extend past Kansas’ borders. It could indicate how other states will vote on abortion after the Supreme Court’s ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization — which overturned Roe and left abortion policy up to the states — and suggest where Americans stand on abortion ahead of the midterm elections in November.
Carroll said that the vote’s impact on the midterm elections “really depends on what pro-life candidates take away from this.”
“Our sincere hope is that pro-life candidates will remember the responsibility that they have to go on offense to explain to voters what they believe and to define their political opponents on this issue,” she said. “Otherwise they will be defined by the pro-abortion people.”
Life is a winning issue, she stressed.
“Life is always morally right, it still is politically smart, it just requires action on the part of candidates,” she said.
Carroll expressed concern about one area: the overall idea that there could be more ballot initiatives.
This is because, she said, this “hasn't been historically an area that the pro-life movement has focused on” as a way to effect change.
“We haven‘t spent a ton of time working on ballot initiatives, so if this is an area where the pro-abortion movement thinks now that they can win, we could see more of them,” she said, “and we’re going to have to up our game and ability to engage in these types of races.”