I am ecstatic, as I write this. Voters in Kansas rejected a proposed state constitutional amendment last week that would have said there was no right to an abortion in the state. The nationwide abortion rights provided by Roe were unceremoniously dumped by the US Supreme Court when it handed down its ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson's Women's Health Organization. The Kansans have said it loud and clear that they believe and trust women to make their own healthcare decisions. What a huge decisive moment!
What makes this victory even more special is the fact that Kansas has always been a red state, where registered Republicans far outnumber Democrats. Anti-abortion politicians had put this amendment in the primary ballot and were likely expecting very low voter turnout. Kansas voters came out in large numbers and resoundingly decided against removing the right to abortion from the State Constitution. The defeat of the ballot referendum is the most tangible demonstration yet of a political backlash against the U.S. Supreme Court’s overturn of Roe v. Wade.
I take heart from the fact that on this issue voters looked beyond party line. Abortion access is as much a right to healthcare issue as it is a racial and economic justice issue. Abortion restrictions and bans disproportionately burden African-American women, low-income women, and others who already face barriers to accessing health care. Hyphenated American women - more than any other group - bear the brunt of this.
Access to abortion is not about political ideologies and beliefs aligned to party colors. Access to abortion is crucial to women’s healthcare. The ability to choose if, when, and how to give birth should unequivocally belong to every woman in this country - and in the world at large. Abortion access is linked to racial and economic justice in the same way that voting rights and school desegregation are linked to racial and economic justice. These rights ensure our ideals of equality and justice are lived realities for all our people. Period.
I am certain that abortion opponents will continue putting major roadblocks on our path to progress. But let that not deter us from doing what is right - handing back to women the right to healthcare decisions that affect them. The Kansas ballot has shown that voters will not accept extreme bans on abortion. While it remains a nuanced topic at heart, there is no room in today’s day and age for outright bans and such extreme steps. I personally believe that abortions should be legal, and women should have complete control on doing what’s medically right. Even before the recent Supreme Court ruling, Kansas has been the go-to state for many out-of-state abortion seekers. And now, Kansas may just be the nearest state for people from Texas, Arkansas etc. to travel to for abortion consultation and procedures.
We must understand that abortion rights is not a binary pro-life versus pro-choice debate. According to recent Pew Research Center survey, very few Americans in either side of the topic tend to take an absolutist view on the legality of abortion. While there are key considerations as to when an abortion takes place during a woman’s pregnancy, whether the pregnancy endangers a woman’s life and whether a baby would have severe health problems etc., broadly speaking our country is already united in its thinking that outright ban is never a solution. The survey also shows that there is broad public agreement that abortion should be legal if pregnancy endangers a woman’s health or is the result of a rape.
This year, a host of abortion related questions will be on state ballots, and let’s hope Kansas' decision will be an indicator of what is to come. We must unite as a nation and take a bipartisan approach towards legalizing abortion. We must.