Last week Kansas voted by a double-digit margin to reject a referendum this would have removed abortion protections from the state constitution. The historic pro-choice victory dominated national headlines and quickly changed the political debate on abortion in a post-Roe world.
But amid the burgeoning victory lap of many abortion-rights supporters, something else happened: Anti-abortion extremist Kris Kobach quietly won the Republican primary for Attorney General of State. Kobach has a long anti-abortion record, including being a leading supporter of the Value Them Both amendment which nearly 60% of Kansans voted against.
A general election victory for Kobach — a longtime ally of former President Donald Trump — would likely mean the fight for abortion rights in Kansas is far from over.
“Kris Kobach wants to make Kansas the most abortion-unfriendly state in the country,” said Emily Trifone, deputy director of communications for the Democratic Attorneys General Association.
Kobach won the Republican nomination with just over 42% votes last week, beating state senator Kellie Warren and former federal prosecutor Tony Mattivi. Victory solidifies Kobach’s comeback after losing a GOP nomination for an open U.S. Senate seat in 2020, and losing the race for governor to current Kansas Governor Laura Kelly (D) in 2018 – despite Trump’s endorsement.
A lawyer, Kobach first rose to prominence as the author of tough anti-immigration legislation in Arizona, then served as Kansas’ secretary of state. His far-right anti-immigration views and calls for tougher voter ID laws catapulted him to national prominence during the Trump years. And his views on abortion have remained consistent throughout his political tenure.
Kobach has continually asked the Supreme Court to repeal Roe v. Wade and believes there should be no exceptions for abortion restrictions. In 2018, Kobach supported legislation banning all abortions once fetal heart activity is detected. In 2004, he was one of the supporters of a bill that requires people seeking abortions to have ultrasounds and requires the state to tell patients that an abortion will cause the fetus to experience pain – a point. oft-cited anti-choice discussion board that has has not been scientifically proven. Kobach also opposes federal funding for Planned Parenthood, comparing the pro-choice organization to the Nazis in 2015.
Following his party’s appointment as Attorney General, Kobach Told The Associated Press was disappointed that Kansans rejected the Value Them Both amendment that would have removed abortion rights protections from the state constitution. He returned to his disappointment in an interview later the same day.
“I will be attorney general for all Kansans, regardless of political affiliation,” Kobach said. Told local media. “The defeat of the Value Them Both amendment means that the 2019 opinion of the Kansas Supreme Court … is valid and thus sets the legal context for any defense of pro-life laws in Kansas. I will defend these laws. I will uphold all Kansas laws.
But, in a five-point plan released in May which details what Kobach would do if elected, the Republican has openly prioritized restricting abortion access in the state.
“After the passage of the Value Them Both Amendment, I will use my authority as Attorney General of Kansas to ensure that all Kansas pro-life laws that were struck down or threatened by the Hodes & Nauser decision of the Supreme Court of Kansas be immediately reinstated. Kobach wrote in his outline.
“I will also push for additional laws to make Kansas the most pro-life state in America. And when the ACLU sues to block our pro-life laws, I will aggressively defend them in court.
Kobach did not respond to HuffPost’s request for comment.
The pro-choice win over the Value Them Both amendment came as a surprise to many in a state Trump carried by 15 points in 2020. Still, Kansas has some purple streaks, including a Democratic governor and a slew of unaffiliated or independent voters (29%). And it wasn’t just urban and suburban counties that voted against the Value Them Both amendment, according Brian Lowry, Kansas City Star political editor. The ballot initiative also saw support for abortion rights from rural counties that have not voted for a Democrat since Lyndon B. Johnson.
The overwhelming vote against the anti-abortion ballot initiative could be a taste of the midterm elections: Some swing voters could prioritize reproductive rights given Roe’s fall, possibly triggering a blue wave in November that could destroy Kobach’s chances of winning the attorney general.
Chris Mann, the Democratic nominee for Kansas attorney general, won his party’s nomination last week in an uncontested primary. The former police officer and local prosecutor told HuffPost he believes Kobach will prioritize his political agenda over Kansans’ health care.
“Kobach has made it clear time and time again that he is a politician at heart, not a public servant. He will push his personal political agenda at the expense of the health and safety of Kansas families,” Mann said. I will be elected, I will do what I have always done as a police officer and prosecutor: focus on public safety, not politics. As Attorney General, I will uphold the law and protect the constitutional rights of all the Kansans.
Since Roe’s fall in June, a dozen states in the South and Midwest have severely restricted or banned abortion, making Kansas an unlikely sanctuary state. And the fact that Kansas is now a haven for millions of Americans seeking abortions shows just how dire access to care really is.
Abortion is already heavily regulated in Kansas: it is prohibited after 22 weeks except to save the life of the pregnant person, and government funding of abortion care is prohibited. There are only five clinics left in the state, and there are a host of other barriers to getting care, including a 24-hour waiting period, state-mandated ultrasounds, and required religious counseling.