Ashley All wasn’t sure she wanted her three young daughters — 12, 10 and seven years old — to come to Tuesday’s election night watch party. There was a chance it could be a deeply depressing night. For the last eight months, All had been working, as part of Kansans for Constitutional Freedom, to defeat an effort to strip the right to abortion from the state constitution. Hard-right lawmakers in the Kansas legislature passed the amendment back in January 2021, but in order to change the state’s constitution, it had to be ratified by Kansas voters. To stack the odds in their favor, the legislators put the measure on an August primary ballot, a time when only die-hard partisans typically turn out to vote. What limited polling there had been of the race indicated it would be close: pollsters forecasted about 47 percent of voters were in favor of amending the constitution to eliminate the right to abortion, 43 opposed, and 10 percent unsure.
In the wake of the Dobbs decision, and the catastrophic cascade of state bans that followed, the Kansas vote took on an even greater significance: it would be the first time voters themselves would get to weigh in on the court’s decision to end Roe and fifty years of federal protection for abortion. The night of the vote, All decided to bring her kids to the party — if they lost, she reasoned, they’d just eat snacks in the hotel room, but if they won, she wanted her daughters to be there. Shortly after the polls closed, it was clear she’d made the right decision: in a thundering victory for women and reproductive rights advocates, Kansans rejected the proposed ballot measure 59 percent to 41 percent. The win offered a desperately needed shot in the arm for a demoralized majority of Americans who support the right to abortion access. Already, some are floating the idea of popular referendums on abortion in states like Texas, where abortion is virtually outlawed. A New York Times analysis after Kansas’ vote suggested that if every state put it to vote, abortion would be legal in 40 of 50 states. But how replicable is Kansas’ success, really? Rolling Stone spoke with All about how the campaign managed to pull off a victory in Kansas, and what advice she has for advocates in other states. [Continue reading…]