TOPEKA, (KSNT)— Abortion rights activists in Kansas are celebrating a victory after Tuesday’s Primary.
The constitutional amendment on the ballot was rejected in an unexpected landslide.
Marilyn Ault, a long-time abortion rights activist in Topeka, said she was surprised by the results, but also ‘relieved.’
“I thought it was going to be really close and thought it wasn’t going to go our way, and early in the evening… that was a surprise for many of us. We thought it wasn’t going to go our way,” Ault told Kansas Capitol Bureau in an interview Wednesday.
Tuesday’s vote upheld the constitutional right to abortion in the state. Kansas is the first state to hold a vote on abortion rights after the fall of Roe v. Wade.
Ault, who is 84, said she remembers a time before Roe v. Wade, when she had to help her friend get an abortion. At the time, there were no federal or state protections of the procedure.
“She was just three months away from graduating and had a job offer in California…that was not in her plan to be a parent, and she wanted to get an abortion… that was illegal at the time,” Ault said.
Ault said after calling around, they eventually found a chiropractor who said he was able to perform the procedure.
“We were really frightened by the amount of bleeding afterward, because we had no idea what was normal,” she said. “Just medically there was no problem, but boy were we frightened and it was a real risk, and to think that anybody would have to go to those lengths to get an abortion, if they just weren’t ready to have a family…”
The amendment drew support from an overwhelming amount of Kansas voters.
In a press call on Wednesday, Ashley All, a spokeswoman for Kansans for Constitutional Freedom, said they were able to “turn the tide” by engaging with people in local communities, and speaking with people on all ends of the political spectrum.
“A lot of the organizations that we work with span the political spectrum. Mainstream Coalition was one in the Johnson County, Kansas City area that focuses on moderate Republican engagement,” All said. “There were a lot of different groups like that, who are invested in this issue for a lot of different reasons. So, we were able to mobilize those organizations and those voters to do more work with us, knock doors, and turn out and vote ‘no.'”
Kurstin Gaudet from Topeka, who organized one of the largest rallies in the state just days before the abortion vote, said it’s important to engage with people from all backgrounds. She also said a large part of their success in mobilizing voters came from sharing stories and informing others on the issue.
“I think it’s important no matter what side of the spectrum you’re on that people come together and vote on important issues like this,” Gaudet said. “Educating them and letting them know it involves so much more than just abortions. I think that’s a lot of what it was… just people talking to each other, telling their stories, and sharing.”
Some abortion activists are also hoping that the decision has a lasting impact.
Ault said she’s hoping other states can follow in Kansas’ footsteps.
“The hope is that since Kansas has been able to do this, that maybe some other states will too,” Ault said. “The Supreme Court made a terrible decision, many of us think, when they got rid of Roe.”
AMENDMENT SUPPORTERS REACT
Meanwhile, those that supported the amendment, say that even though it did not pass, their ‘resolve is stronger than ever.’
Peter Northcott, Vice President of Kansans for Life, made remarks later in the evening, after the final vote was called.
“They will continue to make Kansas a destination for extreme abortions,” Northcott said. “We’re going to get through this difficult period, and women and children will be protected in the state of Kansas.”
Senator Molly Baumgardner, R-Overland Park, who carried the amendment in the Senate, spoke with Kansas Capitol Bureau Tuesday night about what the next steps would be for the general election, after the constitutional amendment failed.
“Between now and November I think that candidates need to get out the message that really didn’t happen as strongly as it should have in this Primary,” Baumgardner said. “We value Kansas families and that the legislative process is designed to be very protective of the rights and protections for the lives of individuals.”