GOP senators reject attempt to place Kansas abortion amendment on November ballots

The Value Them Both amendment passed favorably through the Senate Judiciary Committee

Sen. Dennis Pyle, R-Hiawatha, proposed moving the Value Them Both amendment forward from the proposed August 2022 primary election to this year's November general election. (Noah Taborda/Kansas Reflector)

TOPEKA — Republican legislators on the Senate Judiciary Committee rejected Tuesday a proposal to move the constitutional amendment on abortion to an earlier election than currently planned.

Sen. Dennis Pyle, R-Hiawatha, proposed moving the abortion amendment forward from the August 2022 primary to the November general election. Pyle expressed a sense of urgency in getting the amendment passed, stating that if the amendment should fail in the November election, they could work next session to place it on the August primary. 

If the constitutional amendment passes both the Senate and House with two-thirds majority support and is approved by a majority of Kansas voters, it would reverse a Kansas Supreme Court decision declaring the state’s Bill of Rights provides women the right to an abortion in Kansas.

“If it passes this fall, we will be working on some regulatory language concerning clinic licensure, dismemberment abortions, things that were struck down basically with the court’s order,” Pyle said. “If we wait until August 2022, we will not be working on those things. That to me runs contrary to the language of Value Them Both.”

Efforts to pass the amendment fell a few votes short in the House a year ago, in part because of the placement of the measure on the August primary ballot. Proponents of placing the measure on the 2022 primary ballot say the delay will allow sufficient time to educate and convince voters to support the amendment. Opponents say the move is politically calculated and excludes independent voters from participating in the vote.

Following a hearing on the issue Friday, legislators discussed any changes they believed should be made to the proposed resolution.

Pyle argued it made the most sense to have the amendment placed on an election with a higher turnout and one that would allow independent voters to weigh in. He expressed optimism the amendment would pass in November.

“I don’t think it will fail. I think Kansas voters will pass this overwhelmingly, and I think that because moral outrage is the greatest motivating force in politics,” Pyle said. “If you value them both, we ought to move this up to November.”

Sen. Molly Baumgardner, R-Louisburg, said they should defer to proponents of the bill who voiced support for the primary date. Moving it up to an odd-year election would likely decrease voter turnout, she said, noting the low turnout in the November 2019 general election.

Sen. Baumgardner said Pyle’s proposed change would result in lower turnout and decrease opportunities to educate the public on the issue. (Noah Taborda/Kansas Reflector)

Baumgardner said the added time would also be beneficial in educating voters on what the amendment does and does not do. She said many still believe the amendment would immediately place a ban on abortion, and opponents argue the amendment clears the way for a ban.

“It will take some time with regard to messaging,” Baumgardner said. “This is an opportunity to educate Kansans as to what is and isn’t in our constitution and what it is, here in the 21st century, they want their constitution to represent.”

Pyle’s proposal did not receive any support from the rest of the panel.

The judiciary committee passed the abortion amendment, clearing the way for debate and a vote from the full Senate. Sen. Ethan Corson, D-Prairie Village, opposed the amendment, and Pyle passed on voting.