Commentary: Kansans' abortion decision upholds true will of the people, regardless of Supreme Court ruling

Carlos Mock, Chicago Tribune on

Published in Political News

My sister lives in Connecticut and is a devout Catholic. When Roe v. Wade was overturned, we had a very heated discussion about the topic. I argued that more than 60% of the U.S. population was in favor of keeping Roe. She countered that all those polls were wrong. If you really were to ask everyone in the country, most people would prefer to banish abortion.

“It depends on who you ask,” my sister argued. “Most people are against abortion. Besides, if I’m forced to live in a blue state where abortion is legal, people in red states should be forced to live without abortions. They can easily move to another state.”

Well, in late July, the people of Kansas spoke: “In a major victory for abortion rights, Kansas voters on Tuesday rejected an effort to strip away their state’s abortion protections, sending a decisive message about the issue’s popularity in the first political test since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June,” The Washington Post reported.

More than 60% of residents in a conservative state voted to uphold a state’s constitutional protections for a woman’s right to choose, while 40% wanted to remove them from the constitution.

This was not a poll. This was an election. Even though it was a primary, participation far exceeded other contests in recent years, with around 900,000 Kansans voting, according to an Associated Press estimate. That is near double the number of people who turned out in the 2018 primary election.

According to the Pew Research Center, 61% of U.S. adults say abortion should be legal in all or most cases, while 37% think abortion should be illegal in all or most cases. In spite of these figures, more than a dozen Republican-led states have moved to ban or further restrict abortion since the Supreme Court ruling overturning Roe v. Wade.

As an obstetrician-gynecologist, I’ve always believed that abortion is a health care issue. I had a young teenage patient with an anencephalic baby at 26 weeks gestation. She really wanted a baby but did not want to carry this baby to term — knowing that a baby born without a brain would not survive more than a few hours once it’s born. I took the case to the ethics board of our anti-abortion hospital, and board members granted special permission to terminate the pregnancy. Labor was induced, and she delivered a baby that was kept warm and comfortable until it died a few minutes after the birth. This act helped my patient mourn. She came back the next year and delivered a beautiful baby without any problems.

This issue is not only about the will of the people, but also it’s about compassion and common sense. Obstetricians and gynecologists are having second thoughts about doing what they were trained to do in cases of ectopic pregnancies and miscarriages because they are afraid to uphold their Hippocratic oath. They fear repercussions from the law. Women with miscarriages bleed dangerously because gynecologists are afraid to perform the required D&C (dilation and curettage) that would stop the bleeding. Ectopic pregnancies — those that happen outside the womb, mostly in the fallopian tubes — hemorrhage internally because doctors are afraid to act.

And these are the easy cases. When do we intervene when the mother has a diagnosis of cancer or a severe medical condition or is a victim of rape or incest? These are not as cut and dried and require more thought and consultation to decide on the best course of action. In every case, the mother or her parents need to be consulted, and, if needed, social services may have to be involved.


I trained at Cook County Hospital when we had a septic abortion ward. I saw too many women die from self-inflicted abortions. One thing that the anti-abortion rights movement misses is that making abortion illegal will not stop abortions. It only stops legal and safe abortions. According to the World Health Organization, the U.S. has the highest maternal mortality rate among developed countries. Making abortions illegal is only going to add to that mortality.

When the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, it did it for religious reasons. Abortion should not be a religious issue. It should be a decision made by a woman and her physician in a private setting.

Kansas just proved that that is the will of the people.



Dr. Carlos Mock is a retired obstetrician-gynecologist and a Life Fellow at the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.


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