Aug 4, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Kansas referendum boosts Democrats' midterm focus on abortion

A campaign sign in Kansas urges a no-vote on an anti-abortion ballot measure

Photo: Nathan Posner/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

A resounding victory for abortion rights in Kansas is bolstering Democrats' confidence that the issue will help them win close midterm races in several key states.

The big picture: Tuesday night’s results — an 18-point loss for a proposal to strip abortion rights out of the state's constitution — yielded new evidence that abortion can push swing voters toward Democrats and mobilize the liberal base.

What they're saying: In Pennsylvania, Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, the Democratic nominee for Senate, used the Kansas vote as an new avenue to attack his GOP rival Mehmet Oz, who opposes abortion rights.

  • “Here in Pennsylvania, Republicans want to do the same thing radical GOP politicians attempted to do in Kansas," Fetterman said. “I will protect abortion rights. Dr. Oz will take them away. It’s that simple.”
  • President Biden, who issued an executive order Wednesday to protect people's ability to travel out of their home states to access abortion, said Kansas' voters had sent a "powerful signal" for November.

The big picture: Democrats are confident that Republicans who take the most hardline positions on abortion — like banning the procedure even in cases of rape, incest or when the life of the mother is in danger — will face a political backlash.

Zoom out: The Kansas referendum proved to be a huge motivator for the state's Democratic voters, who turned out at high levels and stood in lines for an otherwise sleepy August primary.

  • In Johnson County — suburban Kansas City — more than 242,000 votes were cast Tuesday. That's close to the historically high voter turnout in the 2018 midterms. If that can be replicated in other suburbs around the U.S., it could make a difference in crucial contests up and down the ballot.
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