The proposed abortion amendment to the Kansas Constitution on statewide ballots Aug. 2 has attracted $6.5 million in donations as of July 18 to Kansans for Constitutional Freedom, an abortion rights organization opposed to the measure. Organizations leading advocacy for the amendment have yet to file updated financial reports with the Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission. (Tim Carpenter/Kansas Reflector)
TOPEKA — The organization leading the effort to defeat an Aug. 2 abortion amendment to the Kansas Constitution took in $6.54 million in contributions since start of the year, while the association at the center of the campaign to pass the amendment raised $4.69 million in that period.
Money available to both sides of the high-stakes contest is of interest because Kansas voters will be the first to weigh in on abortion rights since the U.S. Supreme Court reversed 50 years of precedent by striking Roe v. Wade in June. A majority of the $11 million generated in Kansas this year has been invested in advertising in an attempt to sway primary voters.
Kansans for Constitutional Freedom, which is working for preservation of abortion rights, said in a new financial disclosure report filed with the Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission that groups and individuals prioritizing access to health care delivered the bulk of its donation total. More than 4,900 contributions from Kansans in 80 of the state’s 105 counties accounted for $488,000 since January.
Ashley All, spokesperson for Kansans for Constitutional Freedom, said the decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion nationwide served as a “wake-up call for many Kansans.”
“We definitely saw an increase in grassroots donations following the decision,” she said. “However, most of our supporters already understood the serious implications of this amendment. Women across the state would lose the constitutional right to make private medical decisions for themselves and their families. And politicians would move quickly to ban abortion completely with no exceptions.”
Groups opposed to abortion, including Kansans for Life and the Catholic dioceses of Wichita, Salina and Kansas City, Kansas, provided much of the $4.69 million raised this year to support a constitutional amendment designed to undercut a state court decision finding the Kansas Constitution included the right to abortion. For nonpartisan ballot measures, church advocacy is allowed in Kansas.
The state Governmental Ethics Commission report submitted by Value Them Both Association, which is at the center of the pro-amendment coalition, indicated the organization spent $5.4 million so far this year to gain traction for the amendment.
The association’s key donors of 2022: Archdiocese of Kansas City, Kansas, $2.45 million; Catholic Diocese of Wichita, $550,000; Kansas Catholic Conference, $275,000; Roman Catholic Diocese of Salina, $100,000; St. Michael the Archangel of Leawood, $100,000; Kansans for Life and the KFL PAC, $500,000, U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran’s Freestate PAC, $50,000; and Shawnee businessman J.B. Hodgdon, $100,000.
The national group Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life American vowed to invest $1.3 million in Kansas to educate voters on the Kansas abortion amendment.
Back on the other side of the ledger, Kansans for Constitutional Freedom’s report said the organization spent $5.8 million as of July 18. Of the total, $4.05 million was devoted to television and radio advertising and production, $512,000 to digital advertising and consulting services and $463,000 to direct mail and printing.
The most significant donations included $1.38 million from Sixteen Thirty Fund, which supports affordable health care and action on climate change. Stacy Schusterman, a Tulsa, Oklahoma, philanthropist and businesswoman contributed $1 million, while Amy and Rob Stavis of the New Schools Venture Fund provided $250,000.
Planned Parenthood Action Fund’s contribution was $850,000. Planned Parenthood Great Plains, serving the Kansas City metropolitan area, and a separate organization Planned Parenthood Great Plains Votes combined to provide $492,000. Trust Women and the Trust Us Justice Fund, based in Wichita, provided $89,000. North Fund, a nonpartisan organization that helped with expansion of Medicaid in Missouri, contributed $500,000.
Other large donors: American Civil Liberties Union, $250,000; ACLU of Kansas, $112,500; Center for Reproductive Rights, $125,000; and NARAL, $100,000.
A 2019 decision by the Kansas Supreme Court declaring the Kansas Constitution’s Bill of Rights contained a right to bodily autonomy, including abortion, generated blowback in the Kansas Legislature. State lawmakers by two-thirds majorities placed on Aug. 2 primary ballots an amendment that would repudiate the state Supreme Court’s interpretation of the right to abortion in Kansas.
If a simple majority of Kansans voted “no” on the amendment, the right to abortion in the state constitution would be preserved and status quo on abortion regulation would be retained pending future action by state government. If a majority of those voting on the amendment marked “yes” on their ballot, the state Supreme Court’s decision of three years ago would be nullified.
Passage of the amendment wouldn’t immediately eliminate exceptions to abortion restrictions or result in a ban on abortion in Kansas, but adoption of the amendment would grant the Legislature more leverage over the controversial issue. The House and Senate could do anything from maintaining current laws on abortion regulation to imposing a ban on the procedure within the state of Kansas.
Political advocates of the amendment decided the statewide vote would occur during the August primary rather than the November general election when turnout by Democrats and independents could be higher. All registered voters in Kansas, including independents, can participate in the vote on the abortion amendment. A simple majority of those who cast ballots on the amendment will decide the issue.
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