Rep. Steven Howe, a conservative Salina Republican. said Kansans disappointed by failure of constitutional amendment on abortion need to focus on their own communities and working to support pregnant women who might seek abortion. (Tim Carpenter/Kansas Reflector)
TOPEKA — A Republican Kansas House member surprised by failure of the abortion amendment to the Kansas Constitution urged Tuesday that people disappointed by the outcome engage in their communities in ways supportive of pregnant women.
Rep. Steven Howe, a Salina Republican without a primary or general election opponent in 2022, said he hadn’t anticipated rejection of the amendment developed and endorsed by anti-abortion state legislators and organizations such as Kansans for Life and Kansas Catholic Conference.
The amendment declaring women had no state constitutional right to abortion was opposed Aug. 2 by 59% of voters statewide, meaning the amendment fell short by 160,000 votes.
The result was comparable in Saline County, which Howe represents in the Kansas House. Unofficial vote totals reported by the Saline County clerk showed there were 9,244 votes, or 55.3%, cast against the amendment and 7,465 votes, or 44.6%, cast for it.
“Last Tuesday is not the end of the story,” Howe said. “There are many ways you can choose to support life. It does not have to be written on a ballot. It only has to be written on your heart.”
Howe, a conservative completing his first two-year term in office, said it was best to avoid the temptation to point fingers following the amendment’s defeat.
Instead, he said, people ought to focus locally on providing financial or ministerial support to pregnant women. He chose to donate diapers to the Pregnancy Service Center in Salina, which does not refer women for abortion services.
“As a father of five children, two of whom are still in diapers, I understand full well how essential and expensive these items can be,” he said. “Each of us can seek out ways to value life.”
Howe was among the 86 House members who voted in 2021 to place on the August 2022 primary ballot the amendment nullifying the Kansas Supreme Court’s decision that women in Kansas had a state constitutional right to bodily autonomy, including a right to abortion.
In wake of the amendment’s defeat, some Kansas Republicans declared intent to intensify the political fight at the Capitol to defend existing or add new restrictions on abortion.
House Majority Leader Dan Hawkins, a Wichita Republican, said supporters of the amendment should work to help Kansans “comprehend what is at stake” in the fight over abortion rights.
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