Kansas votes to protect abortion rights in state constitution after supreme court ruling

Voters mark their ballots during the primary election and abortion referendum at a Wyandotte County polling station in Kansas City, Kansas

Voters in Kansas have protected abortion rights in its constitution by rejecting an amendment that would have allowed state lawmakers to further restrict access to the procedure.

The state is the first in the US to put abortion rights to a vote since the supreme court in June ruled to overturn Roe v Wade, the 1973 ruling that legalised the procedure nationwide.

A ballot question, known as the “Value Them Both Amendment” asked voters to decide whether the state’s constitution should continue to protect abortion rights.

Abortion advocates said the proposed amendment would have removed language that guarantees reproductive rights and allowed the Republican-controlled legislature to tighten abortion restrictions or ban it outright.

A “yes” vote on the measure would remove from the state constitution the right to an abortion and hand the issue back to the state legislature. A “no” vote on the measure would make no changes, keeping abortion rights enshrined in the state constitution.

US President Joe Biden welcomed the result and said the win for abortion rights advocates in a deeply conservative state showed that “the majority of Americans agree that women should have access to abortion”.

“Congress should listen to the will of the American people and restore the protections of Roe as federal law,” he said in a statement.

The ballot question drew national attention as an early indicator of whether abortion rights will motivate voters in November’s midterm elections.

In a statement celebrating the outcome, NARAL Pro-Choice America said the “vote signals to Kansas and the rest of the country that Americans value reproductive freedom and will fight to protect it”.

“Reproductive freedom is a winning issue, now and in November,” said the pro-choice group’s president, Mini Timmaraju.

“Anti-choice lawmakers take note: The voters have spoken, and they will turn out at the ballot box to oppose efforts to restrict reproductive freedom.”

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