Even a sweltering summer day couldn’t keep voters in the US state of Kansas indoors as they turned out in large numbers to support the reproductive rights of women. Nearly 60 per cent voters said “no” to the so-called “value them both” amendment which would have declared that the state’s constitution does not uphold the right to abortion. The results bolster what opinion polls have shown, both before and since the June 24 ruling by the Supreme Court of the United States which overturned the historic 1973 Roe v Wade judgement supporting abortion rights: Most Americans now believe that women should have autonomy over their bodies, including in the matter of pregnancy.
The Kansas poll is the first electoral test for reproductive rights in the US since SCOTUS ruled that abortion was not a protected right under the US constitution and that the issue had to be “returned to the people’s representatives”. The result has shocked “pro-lifers” who had looked on the ruling as having turned the tide in their favour and is all the more remarkable for having come out of a state in the conservative midwest, which mostly votes for the Republican Party, with its anti-choice stance. That abortion rights got more electoral support here than President Joe Biden did is a testament to the profound resonance that the issue of women’s bodily autonomy has, cutting across the US’s otherwise deep political divides.
Several other US states have either already challenged abortion rights or are preparing to challenge them in the coming months. To those fighting to protect these rights, which most American women had until recently considered guaranteed, the Kansas victory comes as an affirmation that while the obstacles before them are formidable, they are not insurmountable.