OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) — The Republican candidate for governor in Kansas said Thursday that if he is elected he will respect voters' overwhelming rejection of an amendment that would have removed the right to abortion from the state's constitution.
Attorney General Derek Schmidt, who is seeking to oust Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly, said the Aug. 2 vote in which voters rejected the proposed amendment by a 41% to 59% margin, means his priority will be upholding abortion laws already in force in the state, The Kansas City Star reported.
When asked if he would support state lawmakers proposing a similar constitutional amendment in the future, Schmidt said: “I think Kansans, Kansas voters, went to the polls. They made a decision, I think that decision has be respected going forward.”
Kelly opposed the constitutional amendment and told supporters in an email last month that she “always maintained that a woman’s reproductive healthcare decisions should be between her and her physician.”
“I think that the focus going forward for the state needs to be on defending those laws already on the books and that’s where my priorities would be,” Schmidt said.
The outcome of the vote was confirmed after a hand recount in nine counties that was requested by two anti-abortion activists. Fewer than 100 votes changed in the nine counties during the recount.
The vote drew intense interest across the country because it was the first state referendum on abortion since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June.
Kansas limits most abortions to after 22 weeks of pregnancy, requires a 24-hours waiting period and makes patients to undergo an ultrasound. Parental consent is required for minors and the state health department regulates abortion clinics.
Schmidt also used the campaign event Thursday to reiterate his support for a ban on transgender athletes competing in women's and girls' sports in K-12 and colleges. He said if he becomes governor, he would push the Legislature to pass a law implementing the ban within the first 100 hundred days of his taking office.
Lawmakers have passed the ban twice but Kelly vetoed the measure both times. The Kansas Senate voted to override Kelly's second veto but the override attempt failed in the House by three votes.
Schmidt was joined at the campaign event by Riley Gaines, a former University of Kentucky swimmer who has criticized the NCAA’s decision to allow Lia Thomas, a transgender swimmer for the University of Pennsylvania, to compete in Division I women’s swimming events.
Schmidt said Kelly's opposition to a ban on transgender athletes in women and girls' sports is "an extreme view that is not shared by most Kansans.”
Kelly campaign spokesperson Lauren Fitzgerald said in a statement that the governor “knows divisive policies are bad for our kids, families and business community.”