Text urges “yes” vote in Kansas to “give women a choice.” – Michmutters

Text urges “yes” vote in Kansas to “give women a choice.”

Anti-abortion advocates in favor of a constitutional amendment that would undo the right to an abortion in the Kansas Constitution are displaying YES signs and those not in favor are posting NO signs.

Anti-abortion advocates in favor of a constitutional amendment that would undo the right to an abortion in the Kansas Constitution are displaying YES signs and those not in favor are posting NO signs.

An anonymous group is sending a misleading text to Kansas voters telling them to “vote yes” in order to protect choice.

“Women in KS are losing their choice on reproductive rights. Voting YES on the amendment will give women a choice. Vote YES to protect women’s health.”

The message went to voters across the state, including former Democratic Gov. Kathleen Sebelius.

The state’s main anti-abortion groups—The Value Them Both Coalition, Kansans for Life and Operation Rescue—all said they did not send the message. The Kansas GOP has also said they are not responsible. A spokeswoman for the Value Them Both Coalition said no member of the coalition, which includes Kansas Family Voice, Kansans for Life, and the Kansas Catholic Conference, sent the text.

“There’s a lot of people trying to confuse people on both sides, I guess,” said Troy Newman, president of Operation Rescue.

Kansans for Constitutional Freedom, the main “vote no” campaign called the message an example of “desperate and deceitful tactics.”

“This misleading text shouldn’t surprise anyone. The anti-choice movement has been lying to the voters of Kansas for decades,” Sebelius said in a statement. “This act of desperation won’t stop the voters of Kansas from protecting their constitutional rights and freedom by voting NO tomorrow.”

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Several Kansans received text messages urging a “yes” vote to “give women a choice” the day before Kansans vote on an amendment to remove abortion rights from the state constitution.

On Tuesday, Kansans will be the first in the nation to vote on abortion rights in a post-Roe world. They are deciding whether or not to approve a constitutional amendment that would remove the right to abortion from the state constitution.

A yes vote would remove the language, which would allow lawmakers to pass laws severely restricting or banning abortion. A no vote would keep the status quo and uphold a 2019 state supreme court decision that found a right to end a pregnancy within the Kansas Constitution.

The text likely does not violate Kansas campaign laws.

Mark Skoglund, the executive director of the Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission, said Kansas law does not require accuracy in campaign communication. Paid-for attribution on text messages is required for candidates but not ballot issues, he said.

“The Campaign Finance Act nor any other law under our jurisdiction places requirements regarding accuracy. In KGEC Advisory Opinion 2004-02, the Commission specifically found that ‘We have reviewed the Kansas Campaign Finance Act (KSA 25-4142 et seq.) in its entirety and nothing in the Act addresses the use of misleading advertising,’” Skoglund said in an email.

Cindy Novelo, a 64-year-old Lawrence Democrat who received the text called it “shameful.” She reported it to her local election office and the American Civil Liberties Union.

“It was so clear. It was very clear and people are looking for clarity. That it was so clear and completely false was just over the top,” she said.

Here are the facts:

What does the Value Them Both constitutional amendment say?

Last year, the Kansas Legislature voted to send a constitutional amendment to Kansas voters that would overturn the 2019 Kansas Supreme Court decision that found a right to abortion in the state constitution.

Supporters call the amendment Value Them Both, referring to the pregnant mother and fetus. The amendment would add the following language to the state constitution:

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

What happens to abortion rights if Kansans vote ‘yes’?

A “yes” vote would add language codifying that nothing in the state constitution guarantees the right to an abortion.

It would not immediately ban abortion or change existing laws and regulations. However, it would mean Kansas lawmakers are empowered to pass any abortion restrictions allowable by federal law.

After the US Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June, state lawmakers will be able to pass legislation intended to ban abortion in Kansas if the amendment passes. They would not be required to include exemptions for rape, incest or the life of the mother.

What happens if Kansans vote ‘no’ on the amendment?

If Kansans vote “no,” the state constitution would not change, and the state level right to an abortion would remain even after the recent US Supreme Court ruling. The Legislature would continue to be barred from passing legislation that would restrict abortion access.

Lawmakers could try again to pass the constitutional amendment if it fails. The 2019 decision establishing abortion as a right could also be overruled by justices in the future.

The Star’s Jonathan Shorman and Judy Thomas contributed to this report.

This story was originally published August 1, 2022 5:19 PM.

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Katie Bernard covers the Kansas Legislature and state government for the Kansas City Star. She joined the Star as a breaking news reporter in May of 2019 before moving to the politics team in December 2020. Katie studied journalism and political science at the University of Kansas.


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