Value Them Both: 8 things to know about Kansas’ abortion vote 

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Voters in Kansas are voting on a pro-life amendment Tuesday. The state is the first to place abortion on the ballot after the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion nationwide in 1973. That decision, Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, leaves abortion legislation up to the states.

Here is what to know.

Why does this matter?

How Kansans vote on the amendment, also known as the Value Them Both Amendment, could indicate how other states will vote on abortion post-Roe. 

“Kansas is the first ballot test in America after the overturn of Roe v. Wade, raising the stakes for the pro-life movement here and nationally,” Danielle Underwood, the director of communications for Kansans for Life, told CNA. 

The vote could also determine whether Kansas serves as an abortion hub for women in neighboring states that restrict abortion. According to the Guttmacher Institute, abortions could increase by more than 1,000% in Kansas, the Kansas City Star reported.

What’s the amendment about?

The amendment would reverse the Kansas Supreme Court’s 2019 ruling that the state’s constitution protects a woman’s “right” to abortion. Currently, state lawmakers are generally prohibited from passing any type of abortion restriction. The amendment, if approved by voters, would enable state lawmakers to pass legislation to regulate or restrict abortion.

The pro-life amendment does not mean a total ban on abortion.

“The Value Them Both Amendment is not a ban on abortion but protects women and babies from an unregulated and predatory abortion industry by returning the right to the people to keep laws that limit abortion,” Underwood explained. “Without commonsense laws in place, Kansas will become home to a growing number of abortion factories with no specific licensure, sanitation standards, or inspections.” 

The amendment would also ensure a ban on state taxpayer-funded abortion, according to the Value Them Both Coalition (VTB), which is led by Kansans for Life, the Kansas Catholic Conference, and Kansas Family Voice.

What does the amendment say?

The amendment’s text reads: “To the extent permitted by the Constitution of the United States, the people, through their elected state representatives and state senators, may pass laws regarding abortion, including, but not limited to, laws that account for circumstances of pregnancy resulting from rape or incest, or circumstances of necessity to save the life of the mother.”

“Because Kansans value both women and children,” the amendment says, “the constitution of the state of Kansas does not require government funding of abortion and does not create or secure a right to abortion.”

When is the vote?

Kansas voters can either say “yes” or “no” to the amendment during the primary election on Aug. 2. Early voting began July 13.

The amendment appears on the ballot after the Kansas Senate passed a measure in January to amend the state’s constitution.

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What do Catholic leaders in Kansas say about it?

Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City, Kan., told CNA that “I and the Catholic Church strongly support the Value Them Both Amendment.”  

“I encourage all Catholics and all people of good will to vote yes,” he said. “The amendment simply returns to the people of Kansas the right and ability, through their elected representatives, to determine public policy regarding abortion. Opponents of the Amendment are afraid to allow the people of Kansas to decide what protections our state desires to provide to women and their unborn children.”  

In the same breath, the former chairman of the U.S. bishops’ pro-life committee stressed the importance of caring for both woman and child. 

“At the same time, the Catholic Church wants to join with other Kansans to surround women facing a difficult pregnancy with a community of support to assist them with whatever they and their children need, not just until the birth of the child, but for as long as they need,” he said. 

“The parishes in the Archdiocese of Kansas City are participating in the Walking with Moms in Need Initiative,” he said, referencing a pro-life parish ministry led by the U.S. bishops. “Our goal is not just to protect women and children from the tragedy of abortion, but to provide them the support they need so that mother and child do not just survive, but so that both thrive.”

What does the opposition say?

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Kansans for Constitutional Freedom, a coalition working to oppose the amendment, argues that the state “already regulates abortion, just as it would any medical procedure.”

The amendment would “pave the way for a total ban on abortion” with no exceptions, it says, and “hand our personal healthcare decisions over to politicians.”

Does Kansas already restrict abortion?

Yes, Kansas generally prohibits abortion after 22 weeks of pregnancy, among other things. However, VTB says that, following the 2019 ruling from the Kansas Supreme Court, “limits are being struck down one by one.”

Does the overturning Roe v. Wade affect the vote?

The overturning of Roe in the Mississippi abortion case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization does not directly impact the vote because it concerns the state’s constitution — and the overturning of Roe leaves abortion up to the states. But the Supreme Court’s decision raises the stakes.

According to Underwood, “In the wake of the Dobbs ruling, the opposition is furiously working to sow a campaign of confusion about what the amendment is and does.”

Indirectly, the ruling could affect Kansas in that the state could see an increase in women traveling there for abortion from nearby states that are restricting abortion. According to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, nearly half of the women seeking abortions in Kansas came a different state already in 2021.

Following the Dobbs decision, VTB said that Kansas was unaffected.

 “The U.S. Supreme Court restored the people’s ability to come to individual consensus on abortion limits — but not in Kansas,” the group said in a statement. “As it stands today, unelected judges in Kansas are the ones who will decide the fate of abortion limits.”

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