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Kansans voted overwhelmingly to protect abortion. Will other states follow?

A MARTINEZ, HOST:

Michigan is just one of the states where the courts are deciding the limits of abortion rights. Kansas left it up to voters. And on Tuesday, they voted against a constitutional amendment that would have let the state's mostly conservative lawmakers ban abortions. Here to discuss the wider implications of this decision, I'm joined now by Temple law professor Rachel Rebouche. Professor, what did you think of the decision by Kansas voters, and what do you think it tells us about the future ballot tests in other states, like the one in Michigan?

RACHEL REBOUCHE: You know, I think it's what we should expect in a post-Dobbs country - expect some surprises. I think a lot of us were surprised that there was such a margin of victory for the no vote. And, you know, I think it tells us a lot about what could happen in states where there are these direct democracy interventions, where people can go to the polls and disagree with their state legislators.

MARTINEZ: When it comes to that margin, we always keep hearing, professor, that in polls, people feel that there should be - people should have the right to have an abortion in some capacity, depending on the state. But the margin - was it that shocking? Is it that wide?

REBOUCHE: Well, I think that the - you know, the polling for the state had suggested that the amendment would carry by four points or so. And the fact that it wasn't even a close vote - that width is what's surprising. And so, you know, Kansas is a historically anti-abortion state. It's firmly a Republican legislature, and it's one of the states that's witnessed some of the most horrific abortion violence - provider Dr. Tiller being shot there - shot and murdered. And so, you know, there was a - it was a real test of whether or not, after Roe being overturned, in particular, that the voters of Kansas would register, you know, a different take on what people in Kansas believe about abortion bans.

MARTINEZ: So what kind of strategy did reproductive rights advocates use to get that success, and how can that be maybe taken away from somewhere else?

REBOUCHE: You know, it's such an interesting question because I think the reproductive rights strategies were purposeful. Much of the campaign didn't use the word abortion. It relied on arguments around autonomy and prohibition of government interference. It thought about just what was covered just a moment ago. It explained some of the harsher, more horrific consequences of abortion bans for people who are seeking emergency care, who are miscarrying. So I think it really wove together a set of messages around consequences, but also appealing to what the campaign believed Kansas voters would respond to. And so in that way, I think this is also a really important lesson that these messages will vary place to place. What voters will respond to will depend on where they are, will depend on the culture they find themselves in. So, you know, I think it was a very tailored campaign for Kansas.

MARTINEZ: Is it harder for states, you think, to pass abortion bans now than when they were passing trigger laws before Roe was overturned?

REBOUCHE: I think it is. I think that witnessing the aftermath of Roe v. Wade being overturned, hearing some of what's happening in states - the confusion, the - you know, the inability to seek emergency care, the laws that have very few exceptions - no exceptions for sexual assault, for instance. Seeing that play out, hearing those stories is different than, in the abstract, passing a trigger law that has effect in the future, not seeing, what are the consequences on the ground?

MARTINEZ: Briefly, professor, what states are you watching for next?

REBOUCHE: I think Michigan's interesting, West Virginia and, of course, Florida is always an interesting state to watch.

MARTINEZ: That's Temple University law professor Rachel Rebouche. Thank you very much.

REBOUCHE: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.