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Abortion rights supporters at convention ask: 'If Kansas can do it, why can't we?'

ABC News logo ABC News 8/14/2022

Although thousands were expected, a few hundred women gathered together over the weekend in Houston at the first major post-Roe v. Wade political convention ahead of the November midterms, with Democrats and advocates hoping the end of constitutional abortion protections will galvanize voters to their side.

The Women's Convention 2022, hosted by the Women's March organization, focused on women's power at the ballot box.

Multiple attendees said Kansas voters recent overwhelming rejection of an anti-abortion proposal -- in a historically red state -- gave them hope for their cause.

"If Kansas can do it, why can't we?" said attendee Kristen Arteaga. "Kansas also shows that votes do matter, even for the people who think they might not and they don't go out to vote because of that."

MORE: Women's March focuses on reproductive rights in light of Texas abortion law

On Aug. 2, a possible amendment to the Kansas constitution which would have removed a state right to abortion failed by about 60-40%.

That result was widely celebrated by abortion access supporters but surprised some major Republican supporters.

"It was a gut punch," Kansas Sen. Roger Marshall said the next day. "I'm just emotionally reeling from it. I'm surprised. I'm shocked. ... But I respect the process and will try to figure out what's next."

An activist writes the words 'Bans Off' on their arms while gathering for a rally in Washington, May 14, 2022. © The Washington Post via Getty Images, FILE An activist writes the words 'Bans Off' on their arms while gathering for a rally in Washington, May 14, 2022.

At the Houston convention, attendee Sarah Lilly of the organization Gays Against Guns said that "the great thing about Kansas is that was a ballot box initiative, so the grassroots can really canvas and they can raise people to go out and vote against the abortion ban."

"Women are voting for their children, for their grandchildren," Lilly said. "I think it [Kansas] can really motivate people to go out and vote."

Local political leaders at the convention highlighted the state-by-state struggle over abortion rights, saying Kansas was only the beginning.

"For my sisters, you have done much. But there is more to do and we cannot stop now," said Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas.

MORE: Resounding abortion rights vote in Kansas may reshuffle midterm environment

"The Kansas voters that no one ever expected would raise their voices … said, 'No, do not remove our right to reproductive freedom,'" Lee told the crowd. "This must be a wave across America mixed in with the dignity of human rights and women's rights and the dignity of our children and the dignity of our lives."

Speaker Jeannie Mai Jenkins, a TV host and producer, said that "every state" should be taking seriously how to ensure abortion access.

"I think abortion is not just a big issue, I think abortion is a right," she said. "And when it comes to your rights, it's something that should put every state up on their a---- to get the right decision made."


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