PITTSBURG, Kan. — The Kansas legislature just raised the stakes of the August 2022 primaries.
On Thursday night, the proposed “Value Them Both” amendment to the Kansas Constitution passed through the Kansas Senate with the needed two-thirds majority — the vote was 28 to 11, along party lines — and officially sent the issue of abortion regulation to voters. The amendment passed through the Kansas House of Representatives last Friday in a vote 86 to 38, also along party lines.
The constitutional amendment, which will now appear on the ballot in the August 2022 primary election, if passed will overturn a Kansas Supreme Court decision from 2019 that determined that abortion was a right protected by the state constitution and could be funded by the state government. Additionally, if passed it would give the state the authority to regulate abortion considering “circumstances of pregnancy resulting from rape or incest, or circumstances of necessity to save the life of the mother.”
Supporters of the measure were elated with the news, including newly elected Kansas U.S Sen. Roger Marshall who commented on a post on the Kansans for Life Facebook page saying, “as an OB/GYN who’s delivered over 5,000 babies, I am proud to stand alongside the pro-life community in supporting the Value Them Both Amendment to the Kansas Constitution.”
All Crawford County representatives, Rep. Chuck Smith (R-Pittsburg), Rep. Ken Collins (R-Mulberry) and Sen. Richard Hilderbrand (R-Galena), voted in support of the measure, delivering on campaign promises, particularly for Chuck Smith, who repeatedly voiced his pro-life views during his campaign.
Pittsburg pro-life groups including Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church were also excited about the passage of the amendment.
“We are so pleased that the ‘Value Them Both’ amendment passed to allow the people of Kansas to vote on the issue. Kansans are very passionate about the issue of abortion, and like innocent and defenseless children in the womb, need to have their voices heard,” Our Lady of Lourdes Pastor Father Jerome Spexarth said in a statement. “As Christians, we believe a child in the womb has value and so does the life of the mother.”
Opponents of the amendment have also been vocal since its passage including the Southeast Kansas chapter of the National Organization for Women (SEK NOW). The SEK NOW spokeswomen Jessena Schultze called the amendment “morally reprehensible.”
“SEK NOW is definitely fully in favor of a women’s right to choose,” Schultze said, “and any attempts to restrict their abortion rights in Kansas is unconstitutional.”
Pro-choice groups also fear that if passed, it would open the door for a future total abortion ban in the state if the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade in the near future.
"We're concerned because we can see the writing on the wall," Rachel Sweet, public policy director of Planned Parenthood Great Plains said, according to the Topeka Capitol-Journal. "Proponents have downplayed ... concerns that this amendment would lead to a full ban on abortion."
On the national level, after the passage of the amendment was finalized, Kansas U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran announced he would be cosponsoring three federal pro-life bills that would, among other things, exclude abortion providers from receiving Medicaid funding, prevent any COVID-19 relief funds from being used for abortions or abortion coverage and generally keep federal funds from being used on abortion-related services.
“Millions of Americans, including many Kansans, agree that we should defend the unborn, and a majority believe using taxpayer dollars to fund abortions misrepresents their convictions and values,” Moran said in a press release.
With vocal groups on either side of the issue, the stage is set for a primary election with higher stakes than usual. Both sides have already begun pushing citizens to plan to vote in the election, which historically has a smaller and “more conservative” turnout according to the Associated Press.
Kansans for Life said on their Facebook page that they are working to “mobilize the largest grassroots campaign in state history.” However, other activist groups like SEK NOW said that with COVID-19 they don’t have any concrete “campaign” plans, yet.
“The pandemic has made activism really difficult,” Schultze said.
With the election over a year away, the race is on for both sides to mobilize voter turnout on Aug. 22, 2022.