Kansas Anti-Abortion Amendment Fails in House Vote

House members watch as final votes are tallied Friday at the Statehouse in Topeka, Kan. (Evert Nelson/The Topeka Capital-Journal via AP)

(CN) — A Republican-led effort in Kansas to get an anti-abortion amendment on a statewide ballot failed Friday, after a marathon voting session lasting six hours.

Though the amendment was defeated, Kansas lawmakers expect more attempts to introduce a ballot question before the Legislature concludes its session in May. The fight over the issue stems from last year’s ruling from the state Supreme Court that found the state constitution guaranteed women the right to abortion.

Undeterred by the vote, Republican House Majority Leader Dan Hawkins said the amendment will come up again this session.

“The fate of the pro-life movement in Kansas has never rested on a single vote, and I am confident the battle for the sanctity of life will continue far into the future,” he said. “Today is not the end.”

Following passage last week in the state Senate 28-12, the House voted 80-43, just four votes short of the two-thirds needed to place the question before voters. Amendments to the state constitution require a simple majority of Kansans in statewide ballots.

While the amendment does not ban abortions, it would make it easier for lawmakers to regulate in case the U.S. Supreme Court should overturn Roe v. Wade.

Though Republicans hold a supermajority in both the House and Senate, four GOP lawmakers voted against the amendment following a six-hour vote that was mostly held open to convince them to change their votes.

Using a procedural tactic known as call of the House, Republican leaders held lawmakers to their seats, even limiting how many could use the restroom at the same time.

Democratic Rep. Davis Hammet tweeted out during the session, “Kansas Speaker Ryckman is now limiting how many legislators can take bathroom breaks (or any excuses to leave floor for a minute). The pressure tactics increase as the voting roll stays open.”

The House closed the vote with a failure to pass the amendment, largely based on the timing of the ballot question.

Republican Rep. Don Hineman said during the vote that he opposed placing the question in August rather than the general election in November when larger turnout is expected.

“Throughout my 12-year legislative career, I’ve maintained a staunch pro-life record,” he said. “My ‘no vote’ today is not in contradiction to that.”

Planned Parenthood’s Great Plains chapter cheered Friday’s vote, but told supporters that their fight is not over.

“The politicians behind this bill have said that overturning the Kansas Supreme Court’s personal autonomy ruling is their top priority this year,” the group said in a statement. “They will try to bring this up again. When they do, we will need your voice.”

Democratic Rep. Stephanie Clayton said she anticipates more battles with Republicans over an amendment.

“I fully expect them to try this bill, or an iteration of it again this Session. But, for today, the constitutional rights of all Kansans are safe,” she tweeted.

Following the bill’s defeat, Republican Senate President Susan Wagle sent two Senate bills and 11 House bills back to Senate committees, stating she would block the bipartisan effort to expand Medicaid to 130,000 low-income residents.

“This vote just completely changed the course of the 2020 legislative session,” Wagle said. “I will work with the pro-life community and will persevere to ensure its passage.”

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