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Kansas voters reject amendment to restrict abortion rights

Women attend a candlelight vigil in Washington on June 26, two days after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe vs. Wade, ending federal abortion protections. Photo by Jemal Countess/UPI | License Photo

Aug. 2 (UPI) -- Voters in Kansas on Tuesday rejected an amendment to eliminate protections for abortion in the state's constitution in the first ballot measure on the procedure after the U.S. Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe vs. Wade.

More than 61% of Kansans voted "no" on the measure, indicating they wanted the abortion protections to remain in place, according to unofficial state results.

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The ballot measure represented the first popular vote on abortion rights in nearly 50 years and the first vote of its kind since the Supreme Court in June rolled back the abortion rights case and returned the issue to the individual states.

Kansas' so-called Value Them Both amendment stated that "because Kansans value both women and children, the Constitution of the state of Kansas does not require government funding of abortion and does not create or secure a right to abortion."

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Kansas Republicans attempted to ban abortion in 2013 and the state became the first to ban a common procedure for second-trimester abortions in 2015, but the state Supreme Court in 2019 struck it down, ruling that the state Constitution protects abortion access under a right to personal autonomy.

Under current Kansas law, abortions are permitted up to 20 weeks after fertilization if the patient agrees to undergo counseling and a 24-hour waiting period, obtain an ultrasound and provide parental consent in cases of a minor.

A "yes" vote on the ballot measure would have endorsed overturning protections for abortion provided in the state's Constitution. A "no" vote would have supported the protections to remain in place.

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"This amendment vote is actually saying: Do we want abortion restrictions greater than we have? Or we're okay with abortion rights," Russell Arben Fox, a professor of political science at Friends University, told ABC News.

Polls showed that most Kansas voters support some restrictions on abortion services, but a majority believe the procedure should not be completely banned.

Brittany Jones, director of policy and engagement at Kansas Family Voice, said the measure is "simply returning the question of abortion back to the people of Kansas."

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"It is absolutely not a ban on abortion," she said, according to ABC. "It's all about protecting our more than 20-plus regulations that actually are saving lives and helping moms and babies."

On the other hand, Dr. Christina Bourne, medical director of the Trust Women clinic in Wichita, said the ballot measure is "an infringement on folks' constitutional rights."

"Abortion is a canary in [the] coal mine situation," Bourne told ABC. "If we lose access to Kansas, then we lose access to being able to take care of a lot of people in the Midwest and the South."

Thirteen states had so-called trigger laws on the books that would move to restrict abortion access following the Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe vs. Wade. Four others have pursued similar measures to amend their constitutions to restrict abortion rights.

The U.S. Senate on Monday introduced the Reproductive Freedom For All Act, authored by Democratic Sens. Tim Kaine of Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona and Republican Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska. The bill would codify abortion rights and contraception access.

The new bill is a bipartisan attempt to find a middle ground after Democrat-led Women's Health Protection Act failed twice in the Senate this year. It would prevent states from enacting laws that put an "undue burden" on access to pre-viability abortions, while also allowing some limits on post-viability abortions except to protect the life or health of the mother. The bill does not define viability.

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