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      Kansas voters back right to abortion

      By MAY ZHOU in Houston | China Daily Global | Updated: 2022-08-04 10:28
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      Voters cast their ballots in the Kansas Primary Election at Merriam Christian Church on Aug 2, 2022 in Merriam, Kansas. [Photo/Agencies]

      In the first electoral test of public opinion on abortion in the US since the Supreme Court in June removed federal protection of women's access to abortion, voters in Kansas strongly expressed their desire to protect such rights.

      An amendment that would have removed abortion rights from the state constitution and allowed legislators to restrict access to abortion was rejected by 59 percent of voters Tuesday. With 95 percent of votes counted on Wednesday, only 41 percent of voters were for abortion restrictions.

      Kansas has been a conservative state where anti-abortion activists have helped to elect strong anti-abortion majorities in the Legislature for 30 years. Currently, Kansas doesn't ban most abortions until the 22nd week of pregnancy.

      The referendum stemmed from a 2019 Kansas Supreme Court ruling that struck down abortion restrictions and found that the right to an abortion was guaranteed by the state constitution.

      In response, the Republican-controlled Legislature placed the issue on the 2022 ballot last year.

      Registered Republican voters far outnumber registered Democratic in Kansas.

      Prior to Tuesday, many political observers believed the amendment would be passed.

      Jon Taylor, professor and chair of political science and geography at the University of Texas at San Antonio, said the landslide win for the pro-choice side in Kansas is significant in a red state that voted 56-42 for Donald Trump in 2020.

      "The lopsided vote in Kansas suggests that the political ground may have shifted profoundly on this issue, potentially helping Democrats and hurting Republicans this November," Taylor told China Daily.

      "Inflation and other economic issues still dominate the political discussion. That said, the Kansas vote on abortion definitely got the attention of both parties."

      President Joe Biden applauded the result. "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," Biden said in a statement Wednesday.

      To help women travel for abortion services, Biden issued an executive order on Wednesday directing Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra to consider inviting states to apply for Medicaid waivers when treating patients who cross state lines for reproductive health services.

      Biden also directed Becerra to consider actions to ensure healthcare providers comply with federal nondiscrimination laws to ensure women receive medically necessary care and to improve research and data collection on maternal health outcomes.

      Kansas Governor Laura Kelly, a Democrat, said in a statement: "I've always maintained that a woman's reproductive health care decisions should be between her and her physician. I'm proud to say that Kansans stood up for our fundamental rights today."

      Kansas For Constitutional Freedom, the main abortion rights group opposing the amendment, called the victory "huge and decisive".

      Mallory Carroll, spokeswoman for Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, said in a statement that the vote was "a huge disappointment for pro-life Kansans and Americans nationwide".

      "It is critical that pro-life candidates go on offense to expose the extremism of Democrats' policy goals for nationalized abortion on demand paid for by taxpayers," Carroll said in the statement.

      Kentucky voters will vote in November on whether to amend its state constitution similar to Kansas'. Vermont and California will decide whether to add an abortion rights provision to its constitution. A similar question is likely headed to the November ballot in Michigan.

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