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Lawrence protesters rally in one more push for ‘no’ votes on the Aug. 2 ballot

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Post updated at 8:19 p.m. Saturday, July 30:

Lin Marando said her abusive partner drove her to the Center for Women’s Health in Overland Park for her abortion four years ago. 

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Like most people who choose to have an abortion, Marando’s decision was nuanced and informed by her own life and body: she was only 20 at the time, and she has cystic fibrosis, making her pregnancy high risk. 

“I’m not kidding when I say I would not be here if I didn’t have an abortion,” Marando said. “Not only did I have severe health complications when I found out I was pregnant, I was with an extremely abusive partner. So many things were telling me — I knew what I had to do.”

Marando was one of about 60 people who gathered Saturday morning at the Douglas County Courthouse to march downtown, rallying people to vote “no” on the Aug. 2 ballot question. The question asks whether or not the Kansas Constitution should be amended to allow the Legislature to impose new restrictions on abortion or ban it altogether. 

There are already many abortion restrictions in place in Kansas, including that it is prohibited after 22 weeks except in cases of life or death. The last reports of any abortions at gestations of 22 weeks or more for Kansas residents were in 2018, and those procedures were not provided in Kansas. 

The majority of the Vote No protesters on Saturday were women. Susan Laubsch, an organizer of Saturday’s events and several prior rallies, choked up as she spoke into a bullhorn. 

“I don’t have much to say other than we’ve got to defeat this,” Laubsch said. “The Catholic Church has paid over $4 million to push this through. What the churches are doing is wrong. Pro-life, it’s a lie, you don’t care if people die.” 

Molly Adams/Lawrence Times Susan Laubsch

Four counter-protesters gathered across the street, holding signs in support of voting “yes.”

If people vote “yes,” “it’s going to be dangerous for women in this state and surrounding states,” said 17-year-old Mercedes Springsteen, who was protesting at the march with her sister Lexus and aunt Ali Springsteen.

“I know a lot of people are counting on Kansas because surrounding states have been banning abortion and making a lot of restrictive laws.” 

Molly Adams/Lawrence Times Mercedes Springsteen, left, and her sister Lexus Springsteen

Judy Pierce said people need to vote “no” to protect and preserve women’s health and safety. 

“We need to get our rights back,” she said. “We need to have that choice. A lot of women are going to be hurt really badly.” 

Molly Adams/Lawrence Times Judy Pierce

There were several reasons Katie Oliver, a pharmacist, was at the rally: The number of babies that will be born high risk if abortion is banned; the millions of dollars that the health care system is not prepared to take on to care for the women who could no longer have access to abortion. 

“As a pharmacist, I’m going to be stockpiling Plan B,” Oliver said, referencing the emergency contraceptive pill that can prevent pregnancy after unprotected sex or after another birth control method fails. “We have to figure out ways people can still access abortions even if they have to go out of state. We need to be ready to mobilize (if we lose).” 

The idea of a loss on the amendment question is one Debbie McCord finds horrifying. 

“I am scared because I think (legislators) will run with that,” she said. “(Bans) have started in other states and we need to stop it. At least being here is doing something, and not sitting home and hoping.” 

Molly Adams/Lawrence Times Katie Oliver and Palvih Bhana

Palvih Bhana said that if Kansans vote “yes,” allowing legislators to further restrict abortion, she will protest. 

“Women need to have a choice,” Bhana said. “It’s our right. We are strong and we will fight. We will not give up.” 

Marando will also continue protesting and supporting people who need abortions. 

Her parents were against her having an abortion, even knowing the health risks that came with her pregnancy. Made to feel ashamed, Marando kept silent about her own abortion story for years. Now she now sees talking about it as imperative for preserving reproductive rights.

For the past year and a half, Marando has been driving women of all ages to abortion clinics so they don’t have to be alone or with an abusive partner when they get the procedure. She packs snacks, and plays their favorite music. She wants women to feel safe, supported and accepted — not ashamed or afraid, as she had felt.

Molly Adams/Lawrence Times Lin Marando

She recalled her own experience driving back home with her ex after her abortion.

“He was yelling at me about something I don’t even remember,” she said. “I was bleeding, sick, in pain. And I was just driving down the highway in a daze. Like all I could think of was, ‘I’m so … happy I just did that. I’m so happy I just did the right thing.’ 

“I just immediately knew I saved my life and I would be OK. I would never take it back in a million years.” 

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Molly Adams/Lawrence Times

Cast your ballot in the Aug. 2 election

All registered Kansas voters may vote in the Aug. 2 primary. That includes unaffiliated and Libertarian voters. To see what’s on the ballot, visit this link. For information about voting early in person, visit this link. Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Election Day, Tuesday, Aug. 2.

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Chansi Long (she/her), Lawrence life reporter, can be reached at clong (at) lawrencekstimes (dot) com. Read more of her work for the Times here. Check out her staff bio here.

Video: How they’re voting on Aug. 2

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Proponents call it the “Value them Both” amendment. These women would dispute that characterization. And much misinformation has swirled around the amendment ahead of Tuesday’s election.

More coverage: August 2 Election

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