Reviews | Kansas voters sent a message. Will Congress listen?

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The message sent by Kansas voters on Tuesday was loud and clear. Rejecting an election measure that would have allowed the Republican-controlled legislature to tighten restrictions on abortion or even ban the procedure outright, voters in one of the nation’s most conservative states showed their support to reproductive rights. Let’s hope Congress follows suit and enshrines abortion access into federal law.

Kansas’ vote on an amendment that would have removed the right to abortion from the state constitution was the first test of voter sentiment since the US Supreme Court ruling. decision reversal in June Roe vs. Wade. The results couldn’t have been more amazing. Although Republicans far outnumber Democrats and despite the state’s ties to the anti-abortion movement, voters overwhelmingly decided to retain constitutional protections. Making the result all the more astonishing, as the Post’s James Hohmann observed, the steps Republicans took to swing the outcome, such as planning the vote for an August primary with the hope that independents would not would not present. The language of the ballot question was deliberately confusing, and the day before the vote, a Republican-aligned company intentionally sent misleading text messages.

This Kansans saw through the political game has been rightly celebrated. “It’s just amazing. It is amazing that women’s voices have been heard and [that] we care about women’s health,” Kansas State Senator Dinah Sykes (D) said when the result was announced. Yet against the elation of the surprise victory is the reality that the loss of access to abortion has created untold hardship and endangered the health of those who can become pregnant across the country. At least 10 states have banned the medical procedure. Four other states ban it at six weeks pregnant, and more states are expected to enact bans in the coming weeks. Some measures are so extreme that they do not provide exceptions in cases of rape or incest or even when the life or health of a pregnant person is in danger. On the same day of the Kansas vote, the Justice Department filed its first abortion access complaint, arguing that Idaho’s near-total abortion ban violates federal law requiring doctors to provide medical care when a person’s life or health is at stake.

It is encouraging that the Justice Department is aggressive in its efforts to protect women’s lives, but its trial, if successful, would affect a relatively small number of cases. More action is needed to repair the damage caused by the court’s reversal of deer. Congress, as President Biden said in response to the Kansas vote, must restore deerprotections as federal law. In May, Democrats tried to push forward a sweeping bill that would have struck down nearly all abortion restrictions nationwide, but it failed to get the necessary 60 votes; Republicans and Democrat Joe Manchin III of West Virginia voted against.

Now, however, a bipartisan group of senators — led by Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) — have presented a more modest proposal measure that would codify federal abortion protections once provided by deer. This would invalidate state abortion bans and the strictest abortion restrictions. But he’s been mobbed by abortion-rights advocates as not going far enough and is unlikely to get the 10 Republican votes needed to top a filibuster. We urge Democrats to support this bipartisan effort. And Republicans should consider whether they want to face voters in three months against abortion rights who — as demonstrated in Kansas — are strongly supported by most Americans.