Em-URGE-ing Voices

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How Roe’s Non-Anniversary Looms Large Over the 2024 Election

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January 22, 2024

Today has become known as the second Roe ‘nonanniversary’, commemorating the 2022 overturning of the landmark Supreme Court decision, Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion on the federal level. However, in 2019, three years before Roe was even overturned, the Kansas Supreme Court ruled that the right to an abortion was to be enshrined in its constitution. Any anti-abortion laws would face serious obstacles, and federal rulings on abortion would not affect freedoms at a state level. The case, Hodes and Nasar v. Kansas, temporarily settled a contentious battle that Kansas had been fighting for decades. 

Following the fall of Roe, legislators in other states were fervently pushing through restrictions and bans – many states even had trigger laws which would effectively ban abortions in most situations as soon as Roe was overturned – Kansas stood uniquely apart. A proposed constitutional amendment titled “Value Them Both” that would have paved the way for abortion to be easily restricted or even banned was going on the primary ballot on August 2nd. This was the first, but certainly not last, referendum on abortion since the fall of Roe, and the country held its breath to see what would happen.  

Outside observers may not have guessed the fervor that Kansans had for bodily autonomy, but thanks to tireless organizing and education, nearly 60% of voters rejected the amendment. Kansas demonstrated a lesson that we must hold onto in the upcoming election- across party lines, abortion access is widely supported, including in red states because there are people who care about abortion everywhere. 

During the summer of 2022, I was nervous. As a native Kansan, I wanted to believe that we could stand for bodily autonomy and justice, but I also knew that anti-abortion sentiment ran deep within many communities. However, as August 2nd, the day of our state primary and abortion referendum, grew closer, I was feeling more and more hopeful about what was to come. Thousands of people were gathering on the streets in support of the Vote No campaign. Online spaces were flooded with information about the amendment and how to vote, but I was still not sure if the movement I saw in my progressive hometown was being echoed in more conservative areas of the state. That evening, the statewide commitment to reproductive justice came to fruition. I had been one of the thousands of people to uphold the constitutional protections for all people seeking abortion, and I was proud to be from Kansas.

As a somewhat rural, Republican-represented state, we are oftentimes undervalued and overlooked. People tend to think we are a ‘lost cause’ for progressive movements, but this line of thinking fails to understand a major issue. Populations are not a monolith, and even in topics which are portrayed as divisive, like abortion, many people can agree that bodily autonomy is important. Since the Aug. 2nd vote, seven states have voted on abortion access, and all have been in favor. Ohio and Kansas especially prove that widespread support is there, but can be hidden beneath gerrymandered districts or simple stereotypes. 

However, Kansas did not magically come together to defeat the amendment, rather our strength came from community organizers across the state putting together campaigns, walkouts, protests, and rallies to spread information and demonstrate that constituents want individual freedom and autonomy. My generational peers especially had no small part to play in the drive for upholding our constitutional rights as young people led campaigns around Kansas. In every state and every county there are people fighting for reproductive justice and even more people lending their support. Such as in Kansas, the key is a well informed base of people ready to show their dedication to bodily autonomy, no matter how many times politicians attempt to wear down their resolve. 

Despite being overturned only a year and a half ago, the absence of Roe has weighed heavily on people needing to access abortion across the country. Many places, following in Kansas’s footsteps, have put abortion on the ballot one way or another, and in almost every election, reproductive justice wins out. The will of the people seems to be trending towards abortion access for all, even in unexpected places such as deep red states. This election year could be critical in gaining even more abortion achievements, and it’s imperative that we act before election day to make our voices heard. In 2024, representatives in Kansas have already put forth multiple bills restricting abortion access. Contacting current elected officials and outwardly voicing support for abortion could help keep or gain rights this November. Just because today no longer marks the anniversary of federally recognized abortion rights, does not mean that there is not another day in the future that could.