Conservatives Are Pushing Absurd Excuses for Kansas Voting to Protect Abortion Access

Anti-choice conservatives are scrambling to place a positive spin on the failure of a Kansas ballot initiative on Tuesday that would have amended the state constitution to allow greater restrictions on abortion care. The red-state referendum going down in a landslide is the latest indication of the unpopularity the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. “This vote makes clear what we know: the majority of Americans agree that women should have access to abortion and should have the right to make their own health care decisions,” President Joe Biden said in a statement.

Right-wing media, however, has spent the hours since the vote caught somewhere between trying to invent a bright side to the rebuke by Kansans, and attempting to cast pro-choice activists who opposed the bill as nefarious actors who mislead voters. 

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The coalition behind the proposed amendment “Value Them Both,” released a statement blaming “an onslaught of misinformation from radical left organizations” for the proposed amendment’s loss. 

Misinformation was a factor in the campaign around the vote, but not in the way Value Them Both claims. On Monday, Kansas voters received an unsigned misleading text message urging them to vote “YES” on the amendment that “will give women a choice.” Abortion rights activists pointed out that the message misinformed potential voters, as voting “yes” on the amendment would amend the constitution to repeal the current protections on abortion rights. According to The Washington Post, the phone numbers that sent the texts were linked to Alliance Forge, a campaign communications company. 

Fox contributor and Federalist editor in chief Mollie Hemingway attempted to reassure anti-choice viewers that the amendment only failed because “so much money was spent by hardcore abortion supporters to make sure that amendment failed.” Republicans had been banking on midterm turnout in Kansas skewing heavily conservative in the past, yet turnout for Tuesday’s primary elections amounted to nearly three quarters that of the 2020 general election. 

Others repackaged concerns initially raised by pro-choice advocates that the language of the proposed amendment, and the way it was presented on the ballot, would be confusing to voters. “How many Kansans who are generally pro-life but not plugged in went to the polls, read the ballot language, and thought, ‘Shit, I don’t want to let the legislature pass abortion laws. I’m pro-life,’” wrote conservative host Erick Erickson.

Political operative Matt Schlapp — who chairs of the Conservative Political Action Conference, which is kicking off this week in Texas — claimed the amendment failed because it was “too timid” for pro-life voters. “It was not a heartbeat bill it was a late term ban along w other basic regulations,” he wrote on Twitter. “With a pro life governor look for much stronger pro life victories soon. A blip.”

The spin Dagen McDowell slapped on the vote over on Fox News may take the cake, though. The host claimed the Kansas vote is actually a loss for Democrats, because it “blows up” the “narrative of the Supreme Court is destroying our democracy; and in fact, they’re saving it.”

Pro-choice groups are encouraged by the vote. “We knew this would be an uphill battle,” read a statement released by Kansans for Freedom, a coalition opposing the amendment, but “we helped Kansans understand this amendment would lead to an extreme ban on abortion that would put the lives of women and girls at risk.” 

The end of Roe plunged service providers and individuals into a patchwork of conflicting laws, trigger bans, and questions of medical ethics. Both in Kansas and across the country pro-choice advocates have been fighting to preserve the rights of individuals to bodily autonomy and reproductive freedom. A vast majority of Americans believe abortion should be legal, that reality was reaffirmed Tuesday when a state that voted for Trump by a 56-41 margin in 2020 voted 60-40 against repealing their right to abortion care.

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