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Abortion Is On The Ballot In Kansas

Kansans are voting on August 2 on a ballot measure that could remove abortion protections from the state constitution.

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Video produced and edited by Libby Rainey and Nes Sanchez

Kansas will be the first state to vote on the right to abortion since Roe v. Wade was overturned. We spoke to Kansans about what it will mean if voters remove the right to abortion from the state constitution on August 2.

[Voiceover]: Kansas is ground zero in the fight for abortion access in the U.S.

Yazmin Bruno: We are actually the first state to take abortion to a vote after the Supreme Court decision that overturned Roe. 

Dr. Iman Alsaden: The post Roe V Wade map without Kansas is absolutely terrifying. 

Melody McCray Miller: It will literally kill us if this amendment passes because we’re already dying at a higher rate.

[Voiceover]: On August 2nd, Kansans will vote on a constitutional amendment that would pave the way for a total abortion ban in the state. 

So we went to Kansas to talk to voters, activists and health experts about what that would mean for the state — and the rest of the country.

[Knocks]

Yazmin: Hi! Is Shaquita here?

Shaquita: This is she.

Yazmin: My name is Yazmin and I’m a volunteer for Kansans for constitutional freedom. 

Yazmin: Today, we are going to go canvassing to make sure that all voters are informed about the August 2nd amendment that could potentially take away our right to abortion.

Yazmin: Whether you’re a rape victim, or an incest survivor, or even if you want a baby and you have complications in that pregnancy, even those kinds of abortions will be stripped away. So we wanna make sure everybody has that autonomy over their body.

Yazmin: It’s already in the Kansas constitution. 

Nigel Morton: Right now the Kansas constitution in the bill of rights protects the right to abortion under a broader protection of bodily autonomy.

Melody: What this constitutional amendment will do is gut the Kansas constitutional mandate that allows for and affirms bodily autonomy for anyone and more specifically pregnant women.

Guy at door: Y’all wanna hear a quick story? My mother was in Seattle Washington. She moved down here. She went on a date with a dude. I was supposed to have an older brother. But I don’t have an older brother today because she was date raped. She didn’t want that kid. I mean, that’s a woman’s right!

Yazmin: I’m also a rape survivor, so I know what it’s like to not have a choice. To know that, if abortion is taken away, those people that are abused after me, that they won’t have a choice, is terrifying. 

[Voiceover]: Since Roe V Wade was overturned, at least eight states have banned abortions. Kansas is now an island of abortion access. An abortion ban in Kansas would create a health care crisis across the region.

Dr. Iman Alsaden: The post Roe v. Wade map without Kansas is absolutely terrifying. Kansans will have to travel. Missourians will have to travel. Oklahomans will have to travel. People that live in Arkansas will have to travel. There’s no…there’s no where else to go. 

[Voiceover]: Before Roe v Wade, almost one in ten people seeking an abortion were forced to leave their home state for care.

Dr. Iman Alsaden: We regularly see people traveling double digits amount of hours of driving to get to our clinics in Kansas. 

[Voiceover]: If Kansas bans abortion, those trips will get longer, and more expensive. 

Dr. Iman Alsaden: The person that was able to drive 10 hours and get to our clinic and get the care they need, that’s a lucky person right? They were able to access that care even if they had to drive that amount of time, even if they had to fly to us. And there’s so many more people that do not have the means, resources, child care to take time off work to get to us and get the care that they need.

Sandy: In Kansas, it’s somebody’s zip code or their paycheck that’s going to determine whether or not somebody can access abortion care. A typical first trimester abortion in Kansas is $750. So this is a difficult amount for the regular working class person to come up with when they have to deal with finding rent, childcare, living costs. 

Nigel: if you’re an immigrant who is working in the meat packing plant in Dodge city, abortion is already pretty inaccessible based on income and geographic location. But it’ll be even harder to access, if this passed and they ban abortion.

Melody: The person that cannot afford it won’t have that as an option because they aren’t going to be able to have the funds to travel.

Christina Haswood: This particular issue strikes a chord to me as being a woman of color and especially an indigenous woman in state of Kansas where statistics show that we have one of the highest disproportionate rates of maternal morbidity and mortality issues.

Melody: Black and brown women have higher rates of maternal deaths, higher rates of infant deaths. And what this amendment will do if indeed it passes is it will make us 33% more. It will increase our rate of maternal deaths by 33%. 

[Voiceover]: In 2019, the Kansas Supreme Court ruled that the state constitution guarantees the right to an abortion. The Republican legislature responded by asking voters to change the constitution. And they put it on the primary ballot, guaranteeing low voter turnout. Not only this – the language on the ballot is totally misleading. 

Yazmin: they made this amendment SUPER confusing.

Shaquita (off camera): I saw so much discussion this morning. I was just flipping through, like people pulled up the sample ballots and they were confused about what voting “no” actually meant, what voting “yes” actually meant, like no, it’s a trick!

[Voiceover]: The bill’s supporters even named the constitutional amendment “Value them Both”— claiming to protect “both women and children.” But the architects of the amendment were caught on tape exposing their real plan: a total abortion ban with no exceptions for rape, incest, or to save the life of a parent.

[Sen. Mark Steffan (R ) speaking at a Reno County Meeting 6/14/22]: “We’ll be able to make further laws, further refinement, with my goal of life starting at conception” 

Nigel: Really, if you were pro-family, then we’d be looking at expanding Medicaid options in Kansas, which we’ve tried year after year to expand Medicaid access and that’s failed every time. 

Christina: That’s probably one of the most frustrating things is you don’t see them trying to set up policies and pass policies to make Kansas a better place to have a family.

Melody: When you go so far as to think that putting it on a primary ballot is going to keep people from mobilizing, engaging and getting to the polls, you thought wrong because that’s exactly what it’s done. It’s mobilized us to get engaged, to know how to read that amendment and then to get up, get out and vote no.

Dr. Iman Alsaden: Abortion care is normal. It’s health care. People know what’s best for them. They know what’s best for their families and no one should be interfering with a person accessing their basic human rights to control their own bodies and their own lives. 

Guy on his front porch: That’s they right. It’s not ours. We men. If something was to happen, especially with my daughters, I refuse. It’s they choice. Vote No.

Yazmin Bruno: And do you know if you’re gonna be voting yes or voting no?

Guy at door: No.

Guy at door: My name is Walter Richard Coleman Jr., and I’m voting No.

Videography by William Harrah

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