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Image: Iman Alsaden, Chief Medical Officer for Planned Parenthood Great Plains, and Kelsey Rhodes  hug as they celebrate a victory at the polls in Overland Park, Kansas, on Aug. 2, 2022.
Iman Alsaden, Chief Medical Officer for Planned Parenthood Great Plains, and Kelsey Rhodes celebrate a victory at the polls in Overland Park, Kansas, on Aug. 2, 2022.Tammy Ljungblad / Tribune News Service via Getty Images

Three big takeaways from the Kansas abortion vote

The numbers from Kansas shows the breadth of voters who want to keep abortion legal in the state.


Tuesday's voting featured a lot of big primaries, but when the dust settled the biggest news came from Kansas where citizens voted on a constitutional to keep abortion legal in the state by a landslide, 17 points.

The measure was the first significant test of where voters stood on the issue since the U.S. Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision in June that overturned Roe v. Wade and turned abortion back to the states. And the size of the win for pro-abortion rights advocates in a conservative state surprised many.

Beyond the sheer size of the win, there are three significant takeaways from Tuesday’s Kansas news:

Abortion seems to be a voter motivator

Adding up all the votes on Tuesday, more Kansans weighed in on the constitutional amendment that would have opened the door to restrictions on abortion than in the gubernatorial race for the Democrats and Republicans combined.

Overall about 727,000 votes were cast in the Democratic and Republican governor races, but more than 908,000 votes were cast on the abortion amendment, a difference of more than 181,000 votes, that’s 25% more. That’s a lot of people coming out just to vote on abortion.

Keeping abortion legal was surprisingly popular

More people voted to keep abortion legal in Kansas, 534,000 votes, than cast votes in either the Republican or Democratic gubernatorial primaries, 450,977 votes and 276,659 votes respectively.

That would be big news in a lot of states, but Kansas has been solidly Republican for a long time. Donald Trump won the state by 15 percentage points in 2020 and the state hasn’t voted for a Democratic presidential candidate since 1964.

If there is double-digit support for keeping abortion legal in Kansas, what might that mean in more moderate, swing-voting states.

Republicans are not in agreement on the issue

On Tuesday, about 451,000 Kansans voted in the Republican gubernatorial primary, but only about 375,000 Kansans voted to open the constitution up so there could be abortion restrictions in the state. Do the math and there seems to be strong evidence some Republicans voted to keep abortion legal in the state.

That may not be a huge surprise. Abortion is a complicated issue. But as some Republican candidates push for a more absolutist anti-abortion position, the party may start running into problems in general elections.

The Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision means that abortion has gone from being a theoretical talking point to a real-world issue with real impacts and some Republicans may be uncomfortable with going too far on restrictions.

The question now is where does the debate go from here? One race to watch: The Michigan gubernatorial race where incumbent Democrat Gretchen Whitmer has leaned hard into the issue and where there will likely be constitutional amendment on “reproductive freedom” on the ballot in November.

Michigan’s Republican gubernatorial nominee Tudor Dixon only wants to allow abortions in cases where the life of the mother is in danger.