Will Sharice Davids benefit from the passion for abortion rights?

As crowds grew outside the U.S. Supreme Court following a landmark decision eliminating the constitutional right to abortion, Democratic Rep. Sharice Davids’ campaign announced that in Kansas it would rally the next morning.

The campaign’s goal: knock on the doors of Johnson County voters and urge them to vote against a constitutional amendment that would have the same effect on the Kansas constitution. The county is home to a Planned Parenthood clinic in Overland Park, which provides abortion services.

In about a month, Kansas will become the first state to vote in a new era of abortion rights — an era in which states have the power to ban abortions. And as she faces a tough re-election campaign in a newly drawn congressional district, Davids ponders the debate.

In a statement she sent on decision day, she called on Kansans to reject the amendment.

“I urge people to carefully consider what is at stake,” Davids wrote. “I will always work to protect the Kansans’ right to choose, starting with voting no on the amendment to remove existing protections from our state constitution in August.”

With the court’s decision, the stakes in the abortion debate have changed. Now Democrats are betting — or perhaps hoping — the decision will invigorate suburban voters like Donald Trump’s presidency did, boosting their chances in the 2022 midterm elections, where Republicans are favored. to win back the United States House.

“Conventional wisdom, for example, says that Sharice Davids was swept into power, along with a number of other suburban women, on a wave of college-educated suburban women who hadn’t voted midterm. but started in response to the Trump presidency,” said Michael Smith, professor of political science at Emporia State University. “Conventional wisdom also says it could go down now that Trump is out of power.”

But now polls show abortion or women’s rights listed as a top priority for voters, especially among Democrats who support abortion access, according to the Associated Press. And an internal poll in May by the Davids campaign found that 54% of district voters and 65% of unaffiliated candidates generally believe abortion should be legal.

“There’s no denying how active the pro-lifers are,” said Jan Kessinger, a former moderate Republican State Representative. “And the pro pick people kind of sat back and let it happen. We’ll see if that motivates them to get out there and be as active as the pro-lifers.

The new surge of attention to the issue has the potential to change the dynamics of a race that, until now, has largely focused on the economy.

The suburban makeup of the 3rd congressional district makes it an indicator of whether the issue will help Democrats maintain the coalition that has helped they take control of Congress and the White House.

While Davids has come out strongly against the constitutional amendment, Amanda Adkins, his likely Republican challenger in November, is more cautious.

Adkins supports the constitutional amendment, and his campaign casts the amendment as the only thing that will protect abortion restrictions in the state, a line that was also used by the campaign for the amendment.

But when asked what would happen if the amendment were to pass and the legislature decided to further restrict abortion rights, Anna Mathews, campaign manager for Adkins, objected.

“Kansas decides,” Mathews said. “She would be in the Federal Legislative Assembly and wouldn’t really have a say.”

Adkins served as Republican Senator Sam Brownback’s campaign manager in 2004. Brownback campaigned as a staunch religious conservative and was a leading opponent of abortion during his time in Congress and his tenure as governor of Kansas from 2011 to 2018.

The abortion rights debate often veers into extremes – politicians portray their opponents as either radical extremists who want abortion at all costs or radical extremists who want to ban abortion at all costs. The rhetoric in the 3rd congressional district is no different.

In Kansas on Thursday, Davids told reporters the choice was black and white.

“I think people have a clear choice between someone who believes that people should be able to make their own medical decisions and have the right to access the full range of reproductive health services and someone who has supported some of the most extreme prohibitions on, not just access to abortion, but access to the full range of reproductive services,” Davids said.

Davids often toes the line set by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and they too have portrayed Adkins as an extremist, part of a larger effort to use abortion as an issue in the November election.

In a press release earlier this week, the DCCC referenced the Kansas Republican Party platform in 2010 — when Adkins was president — to say Adkins supports tougher abortion bans.

The platform included support for a “human life amendment” to the constitution. Although there are different versions of the amendment, some go so far as to prevent states from legalizing abortion.

“Every human being, born or unborn, has an inalienable right to life which cannot be infringed”, platform bed. “We believe that life begins at conception. The Republican Party of Kansas will lead our nation toward a culture that values ​​life – the lives of the elderly and the sick, the lives of the young, and the lives of unborn children. All unborn children, regardless of their abilities, have a fundamental right to life that cannot be infringed.

Asked about Adkins’ position on a federal ban on abortion access, Mathews said Adkins believes the issue should be left to the states to decide. Conservatives are currently split on whether there should be a federal ban. Even staunch anti-abortion conservatives, like U.S. Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri, have said they want to wait before passing a federal abortion ban to see how the laws play out in the states.

Adkins tried to emphasize his support for restrictions that are already in the law – parental notification if someone under 18 wants an abortion, restrictions on when a pregnancy ends, someone can have an abortion, clinic safety rules and opposing taxpayer dollars to fund abortion clinics.

Meanwhile, she criticized Davids for being a radical on abortion rights, saying Davids opposes any abortion restrictions.

“Sharice Davids is so extreme that she has supported taxpayer-funded abortions, opposed life-saving medical care for newborns who have survived abortions, and opposes any abortion restrictions until at the time of birth,” Adkins said in a press release.

Davids’ campaign declined an interview on the subject. But where moderate Democrats have often been cautious about abortion, especially those running statewide — see Governor Laura Kelly’s sidestepping of the issue in her own race — Davids has always been open about his support for the right to abortion.

Her campaigns have been endorsed by abortion rights groups like EMILY’S List.

Last year, Davids was a co-sponsor of an abortion rights bill that passed the House but failed in the Senate.

As supporters of the bill said he codified Roe v. Wade guaranteeing the right to abortion, some Senate Democrats, like U.S. Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, took issue with his banning a number of restrictions on abortion before “fetal viability,” such as required waiting periods.

Supporters of the constitutional amendment in Kansas, like Adkins, say the state Supreme Court will do the same for existing restrictions on the practice in the state, gutting some of the most popular provisions passed by the legislature. The 2019 court ruling found that there is a constitutional right to abortion in Kansas, but many existing restrictions in the state have yet to be challenged.

The constitutional amendment is on the ballot in August, but voters won’t have to choose between Adkins and Davids until November. So while the amendment may give an indication of how voters react to the Supreme Court’s decision, it’s unclear how it would affect the general election.

Kessinger, the former Republican state representative, said he thought voters would only remain emboldened by the question if the amendment were to pass in August.

“The passion won’t be as hot in November unless the amendment passes,” Kessinger said. “Then this November race for Legislature or Governor, I think, will really keep the passion going on the issue, because it would be up to the Legislature to pass abortion bills.”

The Adkins campaign said it believed the economy and drug overdoses would be the focus of voters’ concerns in November, rather than abortion. Already, Davids has tried to shield herself from criticism of inflation and high gas prices by pointing to proposals and legislation she has backed to ease prices — most of which have not been passed by the government. Congress.

“I think just because something is a national hot topic doesn’t mean it’s going to be front and center on people’s minds when they go to vote in November,” said Mathews.

Yet abortion rights may take on new meaning for voters.

“I think voters understand and are galvanized by this decision because it’s no longer in the abstract,” said Danni Wang, spokesperson for EMILY’S List, an organization that works to elect women who support the right to abortion. “They want to do everything they can to elect leaders who represent their values.”

The Star’s Katie Bernard contributed reporting for this article

Daniel Desrochers covers Washington, DC for the Kansas City Star. He previously covered politics and government for the Lexington Herald-Leader in Kentucky and the Charleston Gazette-Mail in Charleston, West Virginia.