When the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization in June, overturning Roe v. Wade and ending the constitutional right to an abortion, several Republican-led states began moving to restrict or outright ban the procedure.
Voters in those states had little say in the matter. Their only chance to give input on abortion restrictions comes in an indirect way every few years when they vote for state legislators.
But on Tuesday, voters in Kansas will have the unusual opportunity to vote directly on the matter when they head to the polls to decide whether or not the state's constitutional right to an abortion will remain in place, the first such vote since the Supreme Court overturned Roe.
The ballot measure voters will consider is an amendment to the state's constitution. Entitled the "Value Them Both Amendment," the amendment would overturn a 2019 decision from the Kansas Supreme Court that found the state constitution protects the right to obtain an abortion as worded.

How Voters Are Leaning

The vote is expected to be close. A poll conducted by the group co/efficient and shared with FiveThirtyEight showed 47 percent of likely primary voters said they would vote in favor of the amendment, while 43 percent said they would vote against it.
The Value Them Both Campaign, a coalition of anti-abortion groups including Kansans for Life and the Kansas Catholic Conference pushing the amendment, did not respond to a request for comment by the time of publication.
"At this historically important time, the question before Kansans on August 2nd is clear: an unregulated abortion industry with no limits at all or the reasonable limits protected by the Value Them Both Amendment," said Mackenzie Haddix, deputy communications director for the campaign, in a statement after the court's decision striking down Roe.
The organization has taken the public position that the ballot measure will not lead to an immediate ban in abortion but instead allow for a debate in the state about the future of the procedure. Kansas currently allows abortions up to 22 weeks but has some restrictions in place, including parental consent for minors seeking an abortion and a mandatory 24-hour waiting period.

What's Next If It Passes

The text of the amendment leaves the door open for a full ban, including those without exceptions for rape, incest, or to save the life of the mother.
"To the extent permitted by the constitution of the United States," the amendment reads, "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."
The Kansas Reflector, a non-profit newsroom, reportedly obtained audio from a June meeting of Republicans in Reno County. 
In it, a regional director for the Value Them Both Campaign appears to reference a bill that would criminalize all abortions from the moment of fertilization as the next step if the amendment passes on Tuesday. Republican State Sen. Mark Steffen, a physician, said if the amendment passes, the legislature could pass more restrictive abortion laws, "with my goal of life starting at conception."
The amendment's critics say the campaign's position that passing the amendment opens up an opportunity for discussion is disingenuous, particularly in the face of the Reflector audio.
"They are misleading people about their intentions, but it's clear what their intentions are," Ashley All, director of communications for Kansans for Constitutional Freedom, a coalition of pro-abortion rights organizations, told Cheddar News. "They understand that their position to ban abortion completely is vastly out of step with the majority of Kansans. They know if they went for a straight ban, they would lose."
The push to change the Kansas constitution started after a decision from the state's top court which found the state constitution's guarantee that "all men are possessed of equal and inalienable natural rights" represented a broad right to personal autonomy and includes a woman's right to make decisions about her body.
The court went further, saying the right to personal autonomy is fundamental and any regulation of abortion has to pass a test of "strict scrutiny," which requires "a compelling government interest and government action that is narrowly tailored to that interest."
The first attempt at putting a constitutional amendment on the ballot failed in the state legislature in early 2020 but was revived in 2021 with a slightly larger Republican majority in the Kansas House, allowing the amendment to clear the two-thirds majority required in both chambers and make it onto the ballot Tuesday.
The timing of the vote on the amendment has also received criticism from its opponents. The measure is on the ballot for a primary election in August, which typically sees a lower turnout than a general election. 
In 2020, primary election turnout was about half of the general election turnout. The 2018 election, the last midterm cycle, saw a similar disparity between primary and general election turnout.
Kansas also has a closed primary process, meaning most ballot options are only open to voters who affiliate with a political party, but because the Value Them Both Amendment is a constitutional question, unaffiliated voters, who make up 29 percent of registered Kansas voters, can vote in the primary on the amendment and any other non-partisan ballot items.
Despite this fact, the amendment's opponents say the complexity of the amendment and the fact that many unaffiliated voters are not used to voting in the summer primary add layers of difficulty to the process.
They have also criticized the legislature and the amendment's proponents for what they say are tactics designed to evade a larger electorate of Kansas voters who oppose abortion. 
"The deck has been stacked since they passed it through the legislature," All said. 
A survey conducted in late 2021 found that 60 percent of Kansas residents opposed making abortion fully illegal. Still, other surveys found Kansans less supportive of abortion rights than the national electorate. An Associated Press survey found that 54 percent of Kansas voters in 2020 thought abortion should be illegal in all or most cases.

Abortion Violence in Kansas

Kansas has a history of violence surrounding abortion. In 1991, the so-called Summer of Mercy saw anti-abortion activists, led by the group Operation Rescue, flock to Kansas to protest the state's abortion laws. 
The protests centered on Wichita, the city where George Tiller, nationally known as one of the country's few doctors who would perform third-trimester abortions, practiced. In the end, thousands of people were arrested at sit-ins and clinic blockades.
Nearly 20 years later, an anti-abortion extremist shot and killed Tiller while the doctor served as an usher at a Sunday service in his church.
With this past history of violence, Kansas could now move toward a post-Roe future with even more restrictions than the state has seen before.
While the votes are yet to be counted, All said she and her colleagues are optimistic about the Tuesday vote, adding that it has been particularly motivating for moderate Republican and independent women that Kansans for Constitutional Freedom have spoken with. She said she hopes voters will share a broad vision of reproductive freedom and leave the decision-making to individual women.
"What we've learned through lots of conversations is the vast majority of Kansans, and a vast majority of Americans, are in the middle on this issue and find it to be personal, complicated, and particular to the individual person," she said. "Kansas has this unique opportunity to protect the constitutional rights and freedoms of Kansas women to make decisions about their bodies free of government overreach, and I think that's motivating for Kansans."