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abortion midterms

A demonstrator holds up a sign during a May 21, 2019 abortion rights rally outside the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call, Inc. via Getty Images)

Progressives See Midterm Hopes Rise on Kansas Voters' Defense of Abortion Rights

"Voters in Kansas just struck a blow to the Republican anti-choice movement. Now millions of people are counting on us to keep this momentum going, because—without question—abortion rights are on the ballot."

Brett Wilkins

The landslide defeat in Kansas of a constitutional amendment to revoke abortion rights is energizing reproductive freedom fighters, who on Wednesday expressed hopes that congressional Republicans will pay dearly in this November's midterm elections for flouting the will of the majority of Americans.

"The right-wing extremists who plotted to overturn Roe had no idea of the level of anger—and determination—they'd unleash."

Had the Kansas amendment passed, it would have paved the way for state legislators to pass the type of extreme abortion bans that are proliferating in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court's Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization ruling, which voided half a century of constitutional abortion rights. However, the measure was decisively defeated by a nearly 18-point margin amid unusually high voter turnout.

"The Supreme Court's extreme decision to overturn Roe v. Wade put women's health and lives at risk. Tonight, the American people had something to say about it," U.S. President Joe Biden said in a statement following the Kansas vote.

Addressing his administration's reproductive rights task force on Wednesday, Biden contended that "the voters of Kansas sent a powerful signal that this fall the American people will vote to preserve and protect their rights, and refuse to let them be ripped away by politicians."

Progressive U.S. lawmakers and activists also hailed Tuesday's results with an eye toward the midterms.

"This was the first time abortion rights were on the ballot at the state level since Roe v. Wade was overturned—and last night showed that voters simply do not want abortion bans," Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) said in a Wednesday fundraising email. "And when we organize and fight for abortion protections at the state level, we can win."

"The right-wing extremists who plotted to overturn Roe had no idea of the level of anger—and determination—they'd unleash," she continued. "Our momentum is only growing stronger, and we have more chances ahead to mobilize voters, make our voices heard, and fight back against these extreme anti-abortion efforts."

"If we can expand our Democratic majority in the Senate by just two seats, and if we hold onto the House, we will be able to protect the right to an abortion nationwide through federal law," Warren noted. "In Wisconsin and Pennsylvania—two states that Joe Biden and Kamala Harris won in 2020—Mandela Barnes and John Fetterman are running strong campaigns to flip Republican-held Senate seats. They both support ending the filibuster to pass legislation that would ensure abortion rights nationwide."

Fetterman, who is also Pennsylvania's lieutenant governor, said in a statement that "people all across this country are strongly on the side of women's reproductive freedom, even in red states. Kansas just proved it."

NBC News correspondent Dasha Burns noted the high turnout in Kansas, tweeting that "this kind of showing is virtually unheard of in a midterms primary. And sends a big message ahead of November: The abortion rights issue will drive voters to the polls."

According to polling published Tuesday by the Kaiser Family Foundation, abortion access is a "very important issue" to 55% of likely midterm voters, making it tied with healthcare costs as the third-most important issue after inflation (74%) and gun violence (57%).

Robert Kuttner, co-founder and co-editor of The American Prospect, wrote:

Abolishing a woman's right to control her own body is only one of several issues where the far right has gotten high on their own supply. Combined with the excesses of Trumpism, the Republicans have handed Democrats a winning game plan for the 2022 midterms...

The far right is also on the wrong side of public opinion on everything from gun mayhem to drug price controls and of course to the attempted coup of January 6, 2021. These issues divide Republicans; they unite Democrats and bring along independents. In every House and Senate race, the Democrat will be demanding to know where the Republican stands. If the Republican stands with the hardcore right, normal people are alienated. Conversely, if the Republican stands with a majority of public opinion, the GOP base is alienated.

Noting that "in every closely contested Senate race, except North Carolina, the Democrat now leads in the polls," Kuttner held hope that "a year that was supposed to produce a devastating Democratic defeat could yield gains of two or three Senate seats."

"It's too early to claim vindication—that awaits November," he added, "but I'm feeling a lot better than I did a month ago."

Reminding voters of what could be at stake in the midterms, Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) tweeted, "Mark my words, the anti-choice movement is going to look at the Kansas result and decide that their best path to criminalize abortion is a federal ban."

"It's coming," he added, "and that's what's on the ballot this November."

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