After Kansas litmus test, abortion rights in full view as November looms

Abortion and the midterms
Abortion and the midterms
Published: Sep. 26, 2022 at 11:15 AM EDT

WASHINGTON (Gray DC) - Reproductive rights remain in the spotlight ahead of the November 8 midterm elections. Earlier this year, the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 decision that made abortion a constitutional right. In November, the political impact of the reversal will be in full view.

The June Supreme Court decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization sent shockwaves throughout the country. Historically conservative Kansas produced shockwaves again in early August, rejecting an attempt to take abortion rights away.

Kansas gave us one of the first post-Roe litmus tests in August with a vote as to whether the state should continue to protect abortion rights. The answer was a resounding yes from Kansans, but the curiosity now lies in how abortion will factor in the upcoming November midterm elections.

“The stakes have never been higher,” said Jenny Lawson, national campaign director for Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

Lawson says what happened in Kansas was just a preview of what is to come across the nation.

“This is very real and happening in real time to real people. When the election happens in November, half the country could be living in a state that bans abortion,” said Lawson.

But anti-abortion advocates believe their side is just as energized. Carol Tobias from National Right to Life says her organization waited for nearly 50 years to see Roe dismantled. Now that they have the victory, she wants anti-abortion candidates to lean into the issue.

“People are excited about electing pro-life candidates, but they also know the dangers of letting proponents of abortion get in because there is nothing they will stop at,” said Tobias.

Tobias says she is not surprised by the vote in Kansas given the Supreme Court decision was still fresh. She does not think it represents what will happen in November.

“The entire abortion industry focused on that one little state,” said Tobias.

The vote in Kansas was unique as voters decided on an issue, not candidates as they will do in November.

“This is still going to be an influential thumb on the scale,” said Nathaniel Birkhead, a political expert from Kansas State University.

With other issues on the minds of many American voters, such as inflation, gas prices, COVID, and more, Birkhead says abortion will remain a top concern. He believes that because a constitutional right was stripped from Americans, many feel compelled to get it back.

“Now that the threat of losing the right to abortion is very real for folks, that has catalyzed behavior among abortion-rights supporters,” said Birkhead.

Since the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision, 17 states now have either full or partial bans on abortion. 10 more states have bans that are currently blocked in lower courts.