Abortion measure appears short of passage in Kansas House

Members of a Kansas House committee indicate whether they want to be recorded as voting yes or no on a proposed amendment to the state constitution on abortion with thumbs-up and thumbs-down signs, Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2020, at the Statehouse in Topeka, Kan. The measure cleared committee on a 15-6 show of hands and would reverse a Kansas Supreme Court decision declaring access to abortion a "fundamental" right under the state constitution. (AP Photo/John Hanna)
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TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A measure aimed at preserving the Republican-controlled Kansas Legislature’s power to regulate abortion appeared Thursday to be short of the support it needs to pass the state House and get on the ballot.

The House gave first-round approval to a proposed amendment to the Kansas Constitution to overturn a Kansas Supreme Court decision last year declaring access to abortion a “fundamental” right under the state’s Bill of Rights.

The House vote Thursday was 80-41 and sets up another, final vote Friday to determine whether the amendment is put to a statewide vote in the August primary election, when a simple majority would change the constitution. The Senate approved the measure last week.

But supporters need two-thirds majorities in both chambers and 84 of 125 votes in the House in Friday’s vote. Supporters were four votes short Thursday. Four Democrats were absent, but House Minority Leader Tom Sawyer, of Wichita, said they all would have voted no.

Republicans hold exactly 84 seats in the House, but four of them opposed the amendment Thursday.

Abortion rights advocates see the measure as a step toward banning abortion. Abortion opponents argue they’re trying only to reassert lawmakers’ long-standing authority to regulate abortion.