Aug 3, 2022 - Podcasts

Kansas protects abortion rights in the first post-Roe vote

Kansas voters last night decisively rejected an anti-abortion constitutional amendment. It was the first time U.S. voters have cast ballots on the issue since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.

  • Plus, how to fireproof a home.
  • And, Taiwan reacts to Pelosi’s visit.

Guests: Axios' Oriana Gonzalez and Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian and NPR's Lauren Sommer.

Credits: Axios Today is produced by Niala Boodhoo, Sara Kehaulani Goo, Alexandra Botti, Nuria Marquez Martinez, Lydia McMullen-Laird, Alex Sugiura, and Ben O'Brien. Music is composed by Evan Viola. You can reach us at [email protected]. You can text questions, comments and story ideas to Niala as a text or voice memo to 202-918-4893.

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NIALA: Good morning! Welcome to Axios Today!

It’s Wednesday, August 3rd.

I’m Niala Boodhoo.

Here’s what you need to know today: how to fireproof a home. Plus, Taiwan reacts to Pelosi’s visit.

But first, Kansas voters weigh in on abortion: that’s today’s One Big Thing.

NIALA: Last night, Kansas voters decisively rejected an anti-abortion constitutional amendment. It was the first time voters have cast ballots on this issue since the Supreme Court overturned Roe versus Wade and the vote was closely watched for what it could tell us about broader American sentiment on abortion rights. Axios healthcare reporter, Oriana Gonzalez has more, good morning Oriana.


NIALA: There are a few other states that have put this ballot on the issue, but does last night in Kansas, give us a sense of where voters stand?

ORIANA: Yeah. So this definitely isn't the first time that a state has attempted to do this. We have to remember there are already four states: Alabama, Louisiana, Tennessee and West Virginia that have amended their state constitutions to prohibit any protections for abortion rights. So Kansas would have been the fifth. So this election in Kansas sends a signal about how Republican and suburban women voters could choose in key states during the upcoming November election in the aftermath of the Dobbs decision.

NIALA: So how do abortion rights currently stand in Kansas knowing that Roe versus Wade does not exist anymore? And what would this amendment have done?

ORIANA: So in Kansas, currently abortion is legal up until the 22nd week of pregnancy. Before this Dobbs decision back in 2019, the Kansas state Supreme Court decided in a case that abortion access is guaranteed by the state's constitution. What the amendment would have done, and I'm quoting, it would have said “the constitution of this state of Kansas does not require government funding of abortion and does not create or secure a right of abortion.” So it's not an explicit ban or prohibition on abortion. However, it would have opened up the playing field for Kansas state lawmakers to introduce, pass and enact a abortion ban.

NIALA: Where else could we see abortion-related amendments on the ballot for this in November for the general election?

ORIANA: There are a lot of other states actually this year where abortion will be on the ballot. In California and Vermont voters will decide whether to enshrine abortion rights into their state constitutions. In Montana voters are going to decide on another anti-abortion state law. And at the same time, we're looking at Michigan and Colorado as two potential states that could also put abortion on their state ballots.

NIALA: Oriana Gonzalez. Thanks so much.

ORIANA: Thanks Niala.

NIALA: And just to catch you up quick, Kansas was one of several primaries yesterday, Michigan Congressman Peter Meijer, one of just 10 house Republicans who voted to impeach former President Trump lost to a Trump backed challenger John Gibbs. An Arizona house speaker, Rusty Bowers, who testified in the January 6th hearings against Trump, also lost to a candidate endorsed by the former president. We'll have lots more on this on Friday in our political roundup for the week.

In a moment: how fireproofing a home really works.

NIALA: Welcome Back to Axios Today, I’m Niala Boodhoo.

The McKinney fire continues to rage in northern California. It’s the state’s largest of the year, and has killed at least four people and forced thousands to evacuate. With wildfires threatening homes across the western United States, we asked NPR’s Lauren Sommer what we know about fireproofing. And she joins us from the Bay Area, hey Lauren. Welcome to Axios Today!

LAUREN SOMMER: Hey, thanks for having me.

NIALA: Lauren, let's start with some of the basics here. How do most homes actually catch on fire?

LAUREN: Right. We seem to have this image in our mind, of like the fire marches up to your front door and kind of consumes a house. That's not actually how it happens. The majority of homes are caught by embers. They're kind of blown way ahead of the fire half a mile ahead by the wind and these little embers can land on a house, maybe get stuck in like a gutter full of leaves or gets caught in the roof. And that's how a home ignites.

NIALA: So is fireproofing something as simple as trying to protect those embers from getting into a house?

LAUREN: Yeah, you think of it if one of those lands, you don't want your materials to ignite. Some of the ways to make a house fire resistant are kind of the big things. Like if you're gonna replace your roof, right, that's a big one or the siding. But some of the stuff is pretty small. You can make sure that your attic vents, those little openings in the top of your attic are covered in a mesh so that the embers can't get in. The area right around your house is very important. So not having mulch there, having gravel, making sure there's not flammable brush, that's gonna carry those flames right up into the roof of your house. It's no guarantee, I'll just say that, there's definitely fires where no home will be spared, but you're increasing the chances quite a bit if you can kind of take some of these measures.

NIALA: How expensive is this?

LAUREN: There have been many studies done, some show to do these kinds of wildfire building codes as they're known, can actually be done about the same cost as not doing them at all. And that's because some of these materials are actually a little bit cheaper than what you might use otherwise.

NIALA: Lauren, obviously we talked about the fire that's happening in California. Are there efforts in specific states to actually change the building codes, to make them fireproof like how we have hurricane and earthquake codes?

LAUREN: California has wildfire building codes. They've had them for more than a decade. They were kind of the leader on this. And you'd think maybe they'd be more widespread across the West, they're not. Only three other states have them. But in other states there's been a lot of pushback and a lot of it has come from the home builders industry. They're concerned it will add too much cost. Um, some of it comes from local government groups that wanna see local control about building codes and not statewide control. There's just a lot of pushback against that idea.

NIALA: Lauren Sommer covers climate change for NPRs science desk. And we'll put a link to her story about this in our show notes. Thanks Lauren. It's great to have you on Axios Today.

LAUREN: Thanks for having me.

NIALA: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi landed in Taiwan Tuesday evening— to huge reactions. Axios’ Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian was there.

BETHANY ALLEN-EBRAHIMIAN: Quite a crowd gathered outside the Grand Hyatt hotel in Taipei, late Tuesday night, waiting for Nancy Pelosi to arrive. The iconic Taipei 101 skyscraper, which is right next to that hotel was lit up with bilingual messages, welcoming her to Taiwan. There were two groups of protesters, one, for Pelosi's visit and one against Pelosi's visit. They were holding signs and shouting slogans at each other, trying to drown the other side out. There were dozens of police lining the streets, maybe even up to a hundred – very strong security presence. One of the protestors, a woman named Li Tairong, told me that she opposed Pelosi's visit because she didn't want war.

LI TAIRONG [translated to English]: I want peace. I don't want that woman to come interfere in our politics.

BETHANY: Another protestor, a man named Peter Wu told me that he supported Pelosi's visit because she supported democracy.

PETER WU [translated to English]: Democracy around the world is facing serious danger from the Chinese communist party.

BETHANY: Wu said.

PETER [translated to English]: It's important for Taiwanese to stand up and make their demands known. We're not afraid of China's reaction.

BETHANY: When Pelosi's motorcade pulled up to the hotel around 11:30 PM, a cheer rose up from the crowd and people were calling out “Welcome to Taiwan” and “Taiwan Jia You”, which means go Taiwan.

Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian covers China for Axios.

NIALA: That’s it for us today! We’d love it if you could follow Axios Today wherever you get your podcasts, that way you won’t miss an episode. And if you have a minute to give us a rating we’d really appreciate it.

I’m Niala Boodhoo - thanks for listening - stay safe and we’ll see you back here tomorrow morning.

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