What happened in Kansas Tuesday night wasn’t a shock wave; it was just the first wave. For all who wondered what the overturn of Roe v. Wade might mean for the midterms, take note: The suburban woman backlash has started.
Since Roe was overturned, 70 percent of new voter registrations in Kansas have been women. And the turnout for its late summer midterm primary was on par with the 2008 Obama/McCain presidential election.
The landslide defeat of the nation’s first anti-abortion ballot initiative in Kansas isn’t just a win for mainstream suburban women in one conservative, heartland state. It’s a hopeful and positive sign for women in every state. It tells us that women are seeing how they and their rights have become targets of Republican extremism over the last several years. ….and they’re saying “enough.”
Kansans showed up at the polls in record numbers despite obstacles, including a well-funded disinformation campaign. Republicans purposely tried to sneak the ballot initiative in during a summer primary when they thought fewer Democrats would show up. Then fearing that a majority of Kansans actually wanted to maintain abortion rights, they desperately and deliberately tried to confuse voters into accidentally voting their way with an aggressive text message campaign. But Kansas women were paying very close attention.
That’s because women don’t want the government to tell them how, when, or if they should start or grow their families. As the head of a national network of suburban women working together to defeat right-wing extremism, I can tell you that Roe‘s overturn has ignited a fire burning deep within America. Women are seeing how right-wing politicians—from school boards to state legislatures to courts to Congress—have been working hard to push their out-of-touch agenda on the majority of us.
Whether it’s about supporting the forced pregnancy of a 10-year-old rape victim, voting to ban interstate travel for people seeking abortions, limiting access to contraceptives, or incentivizing vigilantes to turn in neighbors seeking reproductive health care, women are seeing that Republican politicians have gone too far.
And it goes beyond abortion rights. It extends to other issues related to our freedoms—ranging from freedom from violence, freedom of speech and the heart of democracy itself. In my state of Ohio, we even had our Republican Senate candidate say women should stay in “violent” marriages.
Suburban women are seeing today’s GOP is no longer their mother’s Republican Party.
And they are crossing over to protect themselves, their rights, and their families. When President Biden won Johnson County, the most populous suburban county in Kansas, in 2020, it was by only eight points. But last night Johnson County voters supported reproductive freedom by 36 points—a 28-point gain.
Here’s my prediction—not just based on the numbers, but the stories I’m hearing from suburban women every single day: In 2022 there will be a lot of Johnson counties all over the country. Johnson County, Kansas, is like Oakland and Kent counties in Michigan. It’s like Montgomery and Bucks in Pennsylvania, Wake County in North Carolina, and Delaware County in Ohio. These are counties where our networks of suburban women aren’t just committing to vote themselves—they are recruiting their friends to do the same.
Kansas tells us that the tide is turning on the red wave predicted months ago. It’s time for any politician representing a suburban district at any level of government to understand the consequences of extremism and what that means in November. Suburban women have had enough.
Katie Paris is the Founder of Red, Wine & Blue and an Ohio suburban mom.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own.