Last Friday was the best day ever for the campaign to ban abortions in the United States.
And it might just have been the worst day ever for the effort to ban abortions in Kansas.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruling of June 24 repealed the federal right to an abortion that was enshrined in the court’s Roe v. Wade decision in 1973. On a federal level, that’s game, set, match for the pro-life forces that have campaigned to outlaw abortion for decades.
But in Kansas, the picture is developing differently.
Pro-choice Kansans have been largely in political hibernation for decades, secure behind the legal firewall that Roe v. Wade provided.
They’re awake now, and they’re fighting the proposed “Value Them Both” constitutional amendment on the Aug. 2 election ballot with every political weapon they can lay their hands on.
The week since Roe was struck down has seen pro-choice Kansans motivated in a way we’ve never seen before.
There have been protests, large and small, every day since the Supreme Court ruling.
Signs and bumper stickers urging a “No” vote on the amendment have proliferated on homes and vehicles to the extent that pro-choice advocates are struggling to keep up with demand.
Anti-amendment freeway billboards urge Kansans to “Trust Women.”
And Wichita physician Dr. Alan Fearey, who appears in pro-choice ads blanketing local TV, is an overnight celebrity and probably by now better known than his wife, Sharon, who served eight years on the Wichita City Council.
Possibly the biggest surprise of this entire campaign is watching the pro-life organizations that back the amendment trying to furiously backpedal from decades of “abortion is murder” rhetoric and insisting that all they want now is “reasonable regulation” of the procedure.
No one believes them. You don’t spend 30 years campaigning to ban something and then back off to “reasonable regulation” at the threshold of victory.
If the amendment passes and the Kansas Legislature gets the chance, it will ban abortions. Missouri already has.
Both the Kansas House and Senate have veto-proof Republican majorities and pro-choice Republicans have long since been purged from any Statehouse influence.
In fact, if not for the courts, Kansas would already have an abortion ban.
In 2011, under the guise of patient safety, the Legislature passed a TRAP law, which is short for “targeted regulations for abortion providers.” The idea was to shut down abortions by making reasonable-sounding regulations that are in reality impossible to comply with.
The courts saw through that and struck down the most onerous provisions of the TRAP law. The Value Them Both amendment would negate such court review and leave decisions on abortions entirely in the hands of the Legislature.
When the Republicans who dominate the Legislature put the Value Them Both amendment on the ballot, they put their thumb on the scale.
They deliberately placed it in the Aug. 2 primary instead of the November general election, because Republicans usually heavily outnumber Democrats in primary voting.
In 2020, 416,000 Republicans voted in the U.S. Senate primary, compared to 197,000 Democrats.
Independents, just under 30% of the electorate, aren’t usually allowed to vote in primaries at all.
They only get to vote when there’s a constitutional amendment on the ballot, so the Value Them Both amendment means they do get to vote on Aug. 2.
Given the track records of the competing parties and the fact that this is an August election, the pro-life folks can win, which they’re good at, and the pro-choice folks can lose, which they’re good at.
But if the pro-choice energy exhibited in the past week holds into August, pro-life will definitely know it’s been in a fight.
So vote your conscience on abortions, but vote. This is probably the only chance you’re ever going to get.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Opinion Editor Dion Lefler has been providing award-winning coverage of local government, politics and business as a reporter in Wichita for 23 years.
____©2022 The Wichita Eagle. Visit at kansas.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.