by Tim Carpenter, Kansas Reflector
July 19, 2022
TOPEKA — The organization leading the effort to defeat an Aug. 2 abortion amendment to the Kansas Constitution took in $6.54 million in contributions since start of the year and spent two-thirds of that cash on advertising to influence primary voters.
Money available to both sides of the amendment debate is of interest because Kansas voters will be the first to weigh in on abortion rights since the U.S. Supreme Court reversed 50 years of precedent by striking Roe v. Wade in June.
Kansans for Constitutional Freedom, which is working for preservation of abortion rights, said in a new financial disclosure report filed with the Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission that organizations prioritizing access to health care delivered the bulk of that donation total. More than 4,900 donations from Kansans in 80 of the state’s 105 counties accounted for $488,000 since January.
Ashley All, spokesperson for Kansans for Constitutional Freedom, said the decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion nationwide served as a “wake-up call for many Kansans.”
“We definitely saw an increase in grassroots donations following the decision,” she said. “However, most of our supporters already understood the serious implications of this amendment. Women across the state would lose the constitutional right to make private medical decisions for themselves and their families. And politicians would move quickly to ban abortion completely with no exceptions.”
Groups opposed to abortion and in support of changing the Kansas Constitution, including Kansans for Life, Value Them Both Association and the Catholic dioceses of Wichita and Kansas City, Kansas, haven’t updated finance reports since Feburary. For nonpartisan ballot measures, church advocacy is allowed in Kansas.
Value Them Both Association reported five months ago it had received $1.22 million in donations, with nearly all that haul from three sources. They were: Archdiocese of Kansas City, Kansas, $500,000; Kansans for Life, $390,000; and Catholic Diocese of Wichita, $250,000.
Those totals didn’t include $1.3 million given last month to the anti-abortion side by Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America.
Kansans for Constitutional Freedom’s financial report said the organization spent $5.8 million as of July 18. Of the total, $4.05 million was devoted to television and radio advertising and production, $512,000 to digital advertising and consulting services and $463,000 to direct mail and printing.
The most significant donations included $1.38 million from Sixteen Thirty Fund, which supports affordable health care and action on climate change. Stacy Schusterman, a Tulsa, Oklahoma, philanthropist and businesswoman contributed $1 million, while Amy and Rob Stavis of the New Schools Venture Fund provided $250,000.
Planned Parenthood Action Fund’s contribution was $850,000. Planned Parenthood Great Plains, serving the Kansas City metropolitan area, and a separate organization Planned Parenthood Great Plains Votes combined to provide $492,000. Trust Women and the Trust Us Justice Fund, based in Wichita, provided $89,000. North Fund, a nonpartisan organization that helped with expansion of Medicaid in Missouri, contributed $500,000.
Other large donors: American Civil Liberties Union, $250,000; ACLU of Kansas, $112,500; Center for Reproductive Rights, $125,000; and NARAL, $100,000.
A 2019 decision by the Kansas Supreme Court declaring the Kansas Constitution’s Bill of Rights contained a right to bodily autonomy, including abortion, generated blowback in the Kansas Legislature. State lawmakers by two-thirds majorities placed on Aug. 2 primary ballots an amendment that would repudiate the state Supreme Court’s interpretation of the right to abortion in Kansas.
If a simple majority of Kansans voted “no” on the amendment, the right to abortion in the state constitution would be preserved and status quo on abortion regulation would be retained pending future action by state government. If a majority of those voting on the amendment marked “yes” on their ballot, the state Supreme Court’s decision of three years ago would be nullified.
Passage of the amendment wouldn’t immediately eliminate exceptions to abortion restrictions or result in a ban on abortion in Kansas, but adoption of the amendment would grant the Legislature more leverage over the controversial issue. The House and Senate could do anything from maintaining current laws on abortion regulation to imposing a ban on the procedure within the state of Kansas.
Political advocates of the amendment decided the statewide vote would occur during the August primary rather than the November general election when turnout by Democrats and independents could be higher. All registered voters in Kansas, including independents, can participate in the primary vote on the abortion amendment. A simple majority of those who cast ballots on the amendment will decide the issue.
Kansas Reflector is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Kansas Reflector maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Sherman Smith for questions: email@example.com. Follow Kansas Reflector on Facebook and Twitter.