Gov. J.B. Pritzker says defeat of Kansas abortion amendment a warning to Republicans seeking to ‘undermine bodily autonomy’

Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker hailed Tuesday’s overwhelming defeat of a Kansas ballot measure that would have repealed abortion protections enshrined in the conservative state’s constitution as a warning to Republicans looking to roll back access to the procedure in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade.

“Kansas voters have spoken — and they’ve forcefully stood up for the right to choose,” Pritzker, who’s positioned himself as a national leader on abortion rights as he seeks a second term, said Wednesday in a post on his campaign Twitter account. “This is a sign to the Republicans seeking to undermine bodily autonomy: Americans will not stand for this extremist agenda.

“Across our nation, we will defend reproductive freedom in November.”

Pritzker’s Nov. 8 opponent, Republican state Sen. Darren Bailey, is a staunch opponent of abortion rights from downstate Xenia who favors allowing the procedure only to save the life of the mother. Bailey’s campaign did not respond immediately Wednesday to a request for comment on the Kansas vote.

In an election year when Democrats are facing potential headwinds from a sputtering economy and President Joe Biden’s low approval ratings, Pritzker and other candidates are trying to use GOP efforts to restrict abortion access to energize the Democratic base and win over independents, particularly moderate suburban women.

Days after Bailey secured the Republican nomination in the June 28 primary, Pritzker launched an ad highlighting his opponent’s “extreme views” using several video clips of the GOP lawmaker discussing his opposition to abortion, including in cases of rape or incest.

The unofficial results from Tuesday’s primary election in ruby red Kansas, which show 59% voted against repealing the state’s constitutional protections for abortion rights, is likely to encourage that thinking.

The issue brought voters to the polls in droves, with about 909,000 ballots cast on both sides of the question, according to unofficial results from the Kansas secretary of state’s office, dwarfing the overall turnout of 636,032 in the state’s 2020 primary elections.

But whether voter interest in protecting abortion rights extends to supporting candidates who espouse those view remains to be seen.

Looking further down the primary ballot in Kansas, only about 276,000 votes were cast in the Democratic primary for governor, according to unofficial results, with first-term incumbent Laura Kelly — elected four years ago in a backlash against GOP austerity — garnering 94% of the vote. There were roughly 451,000 ballots cast on the Republican side.

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The vote by Kansans to preserve their state constitution’s protections for abortion rights came on the same day Pritzker launched a television ad criticizing Bailey for comments in a 2017 video in which the wealthy farmer said the Holocaust of Jews during World War II “doesn’t even compare on a shadow of the life that has been lost with abortion.”

In a statement issued by his campaign on Tuesday, Bailey said he was not trying to minimize the scope of the Holocaust, calling the Nazi extermination of more than 6 million European Jews “a human tragedy without parallel.”

“In no way was I attempting to diminish the atrocities of the Holocaust and its stain on history,” Bailey said.

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