A leaked draft of a U.S. Supreme Court opinion reversing Roe v. Wade sets the stage for a high-stakes vote in August on a constitutional amendment removing a woman's right to terminate a pregnancy. (Noah Taborda/Kansas Reflector)

You may not have known it, but on August 2, Kansans will vote on a constitutional amendment on abortion access. The stakes for the August 2 vote were made clear by the leak of a draft U.S. Supreme Court opinion striking down federal abortion protection rights.

The draft opinion rejecting the landmark Roe v. Wade decision is not final and does not necessarily set in stone the opinion of Supreme Court justices. If the draft opinion becomes official, Kansans will still have abortion rights under the state constitution.

However, if approved, the so-called Value Them Both constitutional amendment Kansans will vote on in August would erase this right. The good news around the leaked Supreme Court draft ruling is that it helps bring attention to the constitutional amendment and what’s at stake on the Aug 6 ballot.

Republicans purposefully put the constitutional amendment on a primary ballot (August), versus a general election ballot (November), where turnout is usually low and the amendment could more easily pass.

The amendment is a response to a 2019 Kansas Supreme Court ruling that said the right to personal autonomy in the Kansas Constitution applies to a woman’s decision to terminate a pregnancy. The ruling stemmed from a 2015 lawsuit after the Legislature enacted a ban on dilation and evacuation, a procedure used for 95% of patients who terminate a pregnancy in the second trimester.

Abortion rights advocates said the procedure provides the safest medical care, while opponents called it barbaric and inhumane.

In a statement, the Value Them Both Coalition supporting the August amendment argued even with the nation’s highest court weighing in, Kansas laws are “among the most extreme in the nation.”

If Kansans want to stop this, they must vote YES,” the statement said.

If the amendment fails, a NO vote, abortion will remain legal in Kansas regardless of the U.S. Supreme Court’s opinion. If the amendment is approved, a YES vote, and Roe v. Wade is overturned, the Kansas GOP legislative supermajority is expected to pursue abortion bans similar to other Republican-led states.

A bill introduced earlier this year in the Kansas Legislature would ban abortions, except those performed to save a fetus or remove a dead fetus after a miscarriage or stillbirth. There would be no exceptions for rape or incest, and abortion would carry a 20-year prison sentence, among the most severe criminal penalties in the state.

It is clear that the amendment proponents will push for a total ban on abortion as soon as possible — and with no exceptions for rape, incest or the life of the pregnant person — which is why it is imperative that Kansas’ constitutional protection for abortions be protected,” said Zack Gingrich-Gaylord, of the Wichita-based Trust Women.

Some states already have abortion bans in anticipation of the ruling, like Arizona and Wyoming, whose laws will go into effect if the Supreme Court reverses the Roe v. Wade ruling. Earlier this year, Oklahoma approved a near-total ban on abortion, and Texas passed major abortion restrictions in 2021.

Gingrich-Gaylord said 26 states will or are likely to ban abortions outright if the draft opinion becomes official.

The deadline to register for the Aug. 2 primary election is July 12.

Contributing NOAH TABORDA, Kansas Reflector  

Since 1996, Bonita has served as as Editor-in-Chief of The Community Voice newspaper. As the owner, she has guided the Wichita-based publication’s growth in reach across the state of Kansas and into...