An effort to place a referendum on the Kansas ballot clarifying that abortion is not a constitutional right fell four votes short of the support needed in the House of Representatives on Friday.
If it had been approved, the proposed referendum would have asked voters throughout the state in August if they wanted to amend the constitution to explicitly state that abortion is not a right and the court cannot interpret the constitution to say it is.
The Senate approved the measure 28-12 last week. However, the House vote on Friday was 80-43, four votes shy of the two-thirds majority needed for approval, the AP reported.
Opponents of the referendum denounced it as an effort to limit abortion. Its supporters, however, said it was a matter of protecting regulations, like parental notification for minors and a 24-hour waiting period for an abortion, both of which may be threatened by a 2019 ruling of the state’s Supreme Court.
“Isn’t the thought of unregulated abortion repugnant to everyone in this chamber?” said Rep. Susan Humphries, a Republican supporter of the amendment.
“It’s simply about letting the people decide,” said Brittany Jones, the advocacy director for the conservative Family Policy Alliance of Kansas, according to the Associated Press. “This is our No. 1 issue. A vote against this is a vote against life.”
Under the current law in Kansas, abortion is illegal after the 22nd week of pregnancy. Additionally, parents must be informed if their minor child is seeking an abortion, and they must give consent to the procedure.
The push for the referendum was instigated in 2019 after the Kansas Supreme Court blocked a 2015 law banning dilation-and-evacuation abortions, which are the most common procedure for second-trimester abortions and use suction devices and other equipment to dismember the fetus and remove it from the mother’s womb.
The Kansas Catholic Conference decried the ruling as “a grotesque caricature of emancipation.” The Catholic Conference issued a petition in October in support of the constitutional amendment.
“There is no way to sanitize the barbaric procedure defended by the Court,” the conference said in April 2019. “The issue under review—live dismemberment abortion–is a most excruciating death. The non-anesthetized severing of a living child’s arms and legs and subsequent removal of the body is beyond our comprehension. Legally disguised as healthcare, this procedure kills an average of twelve children each week in Kansas.”
Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City, Kansas stressed the importance of the value of life, emphasizing that the amendment would save pregnant women from the abortion industry.
“The immediate priority for all Kansans concerned with protecting the lives of (preborn) children, as well as pregnant women from an unscrupulous abortion industry, is to pass a state constitutional amendment,” he said.