Here’s how a Kansas abortion decision could inform what voters will see here in the fall

Mark Payne
Mark Payne
Mark Payne is the government and politics reporter for LINK nky. Email him at [email protected]

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A measure Kansas voters rejected Wednesday that would have removed the right to abortion from the state’s constitution is similar to one that Kentucky voters will see in November.

“Tonight’s results in Kansas are proof once again that abortion rights are a winning issue,” said Tamarra Wieder, Kentucky state director for Planned Parenthood Alliance Advocates. 

Kentucky Constitutional Amendment 2, or the No Right to Abortion in Constitution Amendment, would remove the right to abortion from Kentucky’s constitution. If voters vote “yes” on the amendment, they will vote in favor of amending the constitution, which removes the right to an abortion. If they vote “no,” it will oppose amending the constitution. 

“Poll after poll has shown that Kentuckians support access to all reproductive health options, including abortion— and voters will make that clear in November when they reject Amendment 2 and show up for abortion rights,” Wieder said. “This wasn’t just a win, it was a landslide victory for support of abortion access.”

The amendment in Kentucky, which is also known as the “Yes for Life” amendment, would add language to the Kentucky constitution that says, “To protect human life, nothing in this Constitution shall be construed to secure or protect a right to abortion or require the funding of abortion.”

Advocates in favor of amending the constitution want the amendment to pass, even with the state having two abortion laws on the books that effectively end the procedure in Kentucky this year. 

“We need the certainty that life will be protected in our laws and our Constitution,” said Addia Wuchner, the executive director of Kentucky Right to Life and chair of the Yes for Life Alliance. 

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After several turnarounds this summer, abortion is again banned in Kentucky. The Kentucky Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Attorney General Daniel Cameron’s motion to reinstate the abortion rule that bans the procedure upon detecting a fetal heartbeat. The U.S. Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade triggered the ban in Kentucky. 

The ACLU and Planned Parenthood plan to challenge the laws in the Kentucky Supreme Court. However, if Amendment 2 were to pass, it would remove the basis for the lawsuits and any future legal battles. 

“That’s exactly what the people of Kentucky can do by passing the Yes for Life Amendment in November and writing our pro-life values directly into our Commonwealth’s Constitution,” Wuchner said. “By voting Yes on #2, we can end this legal back and forth, take this decision out of the courtroom and honor the voters’ respect for all human life.” 

Wuchner also said that she thinks the confusing language in the Kansas ballot referendum might have led to voters not voting in favor. However, she said her organization is currently analyzing why the measures didn’t pass. 

“I think our amendment is very straightforward and not as complicated,” Wuchner said. 

Kansas voters voted down the measure 59 to 41. In a line-by-line analysis, The Guardian found that the language, which was written by Kansas statehouse Republicans, is confusing. 

“But this election may not be an accurate picture, because the text on the ballot is so hard to understand clearly,” the article reads. “Republicans in the state legislature wrote the language on the ballot last year, and ever since experts have argued it is purposefully confusing and misleading.”

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Northern Kentucky Rep. Joseph Fischer (R-Ft. Thomas), who is leaving his seat and running for Kentucky Supreme Court, sponsored the fetal heartbeat law and wrote the ballot amendment. 

“The ballot language on the Yes for Life Amendment Number Two in Kentucky is not confusing because, by rule of the Kentucky Supreme Court, we are required to publish the entire text of the amendment so that the people can understand it,” Fischer said. 

Wieder said that some do believe the Kentucky ballot language is confusing. 

“However, one thing that stands pretty stark is the line that says ‘nothing in this constitution shall be construed to protect or secure to the right to an abortion (or require the funding of abortion),'” Wieder said. “What we’re seeing is that no matter political affiliation, religious identity or background, the ‘nothing’ (portion) is what’s standing out to people.”

Wieder elaborated that the “nothing” portion that will protect abortion that’s drawing out a lot of “anger and engendering” a lot of emotion from constituents. 

“The U.S. Supreme Court may have stripped our federal constitutional protections for abortion care, but the Kentucky State Constitution still holds a protected right to privacy and bodily sovereignty,” Wieder said. “A true democracy demands the freedom promised in our Constitution, and the right to bodily autonomy is at the center of freedom.”

California, Montana, and Vermont also vote on constitutional abortion amendments this year. 

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