When the annulment of Roe v. Wade was announced by the Supreme Court last week, with people across the country expressing mixed emotions about the decision.
At the same time, Kansas has become a battleground, where residents will have the opportunity to vote on the Value Them Both amendment on August 2. If passed, the amendment would change the state constitution and government funding of abortion and the right to an abortion.
The Roe inversion v. Wade was a wake-up call for many people, said Kansans for Constitutional Freedom member Ashley All. The coalition is made up of bipartisan groups working to promote reproductive rights.
“If we don’t act, if we don’t stop this amendment, young people, our children are going to grow up with less constitutional rights than their parents, and even their grandparents, and that’s quite shocking,” he said. All. “The ruling reinforces how critical it is that we protect our constitutional rights in Kansas and vote no on August 2.”
While it is essential that all age groups are engaged in the political process, most coalitions involved in the election have focused their efforts on young people, such as ensuring they are registered to vote.
“We’ve done a lot of outreach and our organizations are doing outreach to young voters,” All said. “It’s for them. They have the majority of their reproductive life ahead of them.
Young people have become involved in their organizing, including two abortion rights groups – SURGE (Students United for Reproductive and Gender Equity) in KU, and Vote Neighbor, an offshoot of the Kansas Youth Power Coalition.
There’s not a lot of education around the “no” vote in August, and an engaging social media campaign is one way to interact with young voters, said Vote Neigh lead organizer Rija Nazir.
According to her, Instagram is the most valuable tool for Vote Neighbor, and many voters can be contacted through the platform.
“During the pandemic, young people have revolutionized what it means to be a digital organizer,” said Nazir. “We took advantage of that and started reaching people in a simpler, more accessible way.”
Liberty Rockhold is a sophomore at the University of Kansas and a member of SURGE. Rockhold has created a pro-abortion Instagram page for college students. She said SURGE engaged with potential voters through social media to raise awareness of the election.
“[Organizing] definitely increased since the reversal,” Rockhold said. “We’re doing a lot of work through social media, as well as a lot of local events, rallies and protests to try to drop off and reach voters that way.”
Value Them Both is the coalition promoting the “yes” vote for August 2, and grassroots organizing has been an important strategy on the anti-abortion front, according to Value Them Both member Mackenzie Haddix.
“We’ve been doing this for a little over six months now; we went door to door and talked to the Kansans,” Haddix said.
Haddix recently graduated from Fort Hays State University and recognizes the critical role of students in this election.
“One part that people on both sides of the aisle can agree on — we don’t want our state tax dollars to fund abortions,” Haddix said. “These are common sense restrictions.”
What does the Value Them Both amendment mean for Kansans?
In 2019, the Kansas Supreme Court ruled that abortions were protected in Kansas under the state’s Bill of Rights. If the “yes” vote wins the amendment, abortions and public funding of abortions will no longer be constitutionally protected. If a simple majority of voters choose “no”, nothing in the constitution will change.
Four clinics in Kansas currently offer abortion services, including a Planned Parenthood in Overland Park. In this clinic, the abortion pill is offered up to 11 weeks, and an in-clinic abortion is offered up to 21 weeks and six days after the start of the last menstrual period.
Currently, a 24-hour waiting period is required between information about the abortion and the actual procedure. Minors in Kansas require parental notification and someone 21 or older with them.
If the amendment passes, these rules could be changed by the Kansas Legislature, which is likely given past actions.
With Missouri banning nearly all abortions last week, people seeking one are also likely to cross state lines, as long as the procedure is legally protected in Kansas. Rockhold says it’s crucial to protect these people.
“Voting no to keep legal abortion in Kansas helps not only Kansans, but also people from Missouri or Oklahoma who no longer have this right in their home state and who must travel to Kansas to receive the care they need,” Rockhold said.
Haddix sees it differently.
“I think Kansans can agree that we don’t want to become a destination for abortions in the Midwest,” Haddix said. “We want safety limits and standards to protect not only the women who live here, but also those who visit here.”
August 2 primary election
The last day to register to vote in Kansas is July 12, and the primary election will be August 2. The language used in the amendment can be found here.
“People get discouraged during elections because there’s always this idea of a higher power, like an electoral college, changing what your vote means,” Nazir said. “I want people to know that when you vote no, you vote no, and that’s what matters.”