The expectations going into Tuesday night were that Kansas’ vote on an abortion measure would be quite close. It wasn’t: Reproductive rights advocates won in a landslide.
In terms of the broader implications, if this outcome had unfolded in a blue state in New England, much of the political world likely would’ve shrugged its shoulders and seen the results as typical. But this was the first electoral test for abortion rights since Republican-appointed Supreme Court justices overturned Roe v. Wade; it was held in a reliably red state; and progressive values won out easily.
A Republican political strategist in Kansas told The Wall Street Journal, “There were no major contested Democratic primaries to drive turnout and the amendment still failed resoundingly. If Republicans think the issue of abortion isn’t on the minds of voters, tonight’s results should put them on notice.”
HuffPost reported that some GOP senators were willing to acknowledge the “wake-up call.”
“It’s definitely a wake-up call for us,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) acknowledged on Wednesday. “Kansas, which is a pretty red state ― it’s hard to find the words. I think people should look at it,” added Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) when asked for his reaction on the vote.
These are sensible first reactions. Prominent GOP voices have spent much of the year predicting that Roe’s demise wouldn’t much matter in 2022 elections. This week’s results in Kansas offered powerful — and unexpected — evidence to the contrary.
But the obvious next question is what Republicans intend to do about their “wake-up call.”
The party is not without options. Indeed, Democrats — on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue — are desperate to codify Roe protections at the federal level. To that end, a bipartisan Senate contingent, led in large part by Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine and Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski — has unveiled a modest compromise measure on the issue.
To be sure, many reproductive rights advocates see the bill as inadequate, and by any fair measure, they’re almost certainly right. But the Reproductive Freedom for All Act would invalidate state abortion bans and ensure access to contraception.
It currently has two GOP supporters — and to overcome a Republican filibuster, it would need eight more. Perhaps the results out of Kansas will lead the party to give the bill a second look?