TULSA, Okla. — A statewide vote in Kansas happening on Tuesday could impact how far Oklahomans will have to drive to get an abortion in the future.
On Tuesday, August 2nd, Kansas will vote on two ballot measures which, when broken down into simple terms, amends the state constitution to allow state lawmakers the right to regulate abortions in the State of Kansas.
In 2019, the Kansas Supreme Court ruled the state constitution protects “body autonomy” and that includes the right to access late-term abortion services. Since then, conservative lawmakers, religious groups, and anti-abortion activists have worked together to put an amendment to the state constitution before voters.
August 2nd’s vote date was decided, however, before the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe V. Wade that legalized abortion across the U.S. for nearly half of a century. Tuesday’s vote will be the first time a state will vote on abortion rights since the monumental Dobbs ruling that returned the issue back to the states for local regulation of the procedure, and it’s not clear if the decision will energize liberal voters, abortion rights supporters, and even Republicans who stand with the party on other issues but support abortion access.
Tuesday’s vote, if the changes to state law are approved, would not automatically stop abortions, but the issue would go to the Republican supermajority legislature where lawmakers have said previously they are ready to act immediately to implement laws similar to Texas and Oklahoma where abortion is outlawed with few exceptions.
When it comes to Tulsa specifically, the lone abortion clinic in the city closed in mid-July and is moving its operations to Illinois. The closest abortion clinics are now nearly a half-day’s drive from the Tulsa metro, and the Trust Women Clinic in Wichita said the bulk of their appointments go to women from Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Texas these days since those states implemented new abortion restrictions after the Dobbs decision.
“What we’re seeing right now is in my opinion a national emergency,” said Ashley Brink, Director, Trust Women Abortion Clinic in Wichita.
If Kansas outlaws abortions, the nearest abortion services from the Tulsa metro will go from a half-day’s drive to more than a day’s drive to states like New Mexico, Colorado, and Illinois.
Keep in mind, Oklahoma state law now allows for people assisting a woman in seeking abortion services, even out of state, to be sued for $10,000 in a civil lawsuit for aiding and abetting an abortion. The law does not, however, punish a woman for seeking out the procedure on her own.
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