What’s the Matter in Kansas? Abortion Law Trickery Likely to Spread

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I noted in my post “How to Be a Part of the Solution” that an organization I work with, PostCardsToVoters, is seeking to inform Kansas voters about the intricacies of a proposed state constitutional amendment on abortion.

Significantly, this amendment would reverse the state Supreme Court’s 2019 ruling that the Kansas constitution ensures the right to an abortion.

I felt a particular sense of mission writing these postcards because the right to bodily autonomy is so profound–and the post-Roe environment has already proven so lethal.

If that weren’t enough, I knew that the tactics the Kansas legislators were using were intended to mislead voters—if those voters even knew they were eligible to vote in this special election.

Coincidentally, the day I began writing my postcards, Michelle Cottle of The New York Times editorial board wrote an essay bearing the headline “The Kansas Abortion Amendment Is Designed to Confuse Voters.”

The August 2 Kansas election, Cottle wrote, “stands as the first big political test for abortion since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade in June.”

As my postcards wing their way to Kansas, I want to alert everyone to what forms that deliberate voter obfuscation has taken.

It’s a good bet that whether or not it succeeds in Kansas, proposing new constitutional amendments will become a template for other states seeking to deny reproductive rights. Efforts have already started in Pennsylvania.

What’s the Matter With the Kansas Amendment?

—Although people might expect that support for an existing law would be affirmed by a “Yes” vote, the reverse is true.

Voters who want to ensure the continuation of the right to abortion must vote “No” on the amendment, which bears the seemingly innocuous (and I think ironic) title “Value Them Both.”

—The amendment is being put to voters in a special election held on Primary Day, when far fewer people vote than on Election Day. I heard one commentator say the Republicans actually decided to hold a special election after they’d polled people on the issue and found a majority opposed such an amendment.

In addition, unaffiliated voters, who form the second largest voting group after Republicans (almost 30% of the electorate), are usually not able to vote in primaries, so they may simply assume they aren’t eligible to vote on this important issue.

—Though legislation is rarely written in plain English, this amendment “is confusing to the point of being misleading,” Cottle writes.

It states that legislators “may pass laws regarding abortion, including, but not limited to, laws that account for circumstances of pregnancy resulting from rape or incest, or circumstances of necessity to save the life of the mother.”

Cottle points out that it’s unclear whether the verbiage is referring to future laws that would protect access to abortion in such circumstances—or would ban it.

“That would be up to the legislators. But reading through the text, one could come away thinking that the amendment aims to shore up certain abortion rights or simply maintain the status quo. (Spoiler alert: It does not.)”

If you think that in heavily Republican Kansas, there’s no question such an amendment would pass, that’s not necessarily the case.

A 2021 poll found that only 20 percent of Kansas voters supported making abortion illegal in all circumstances. Over 62 percent felt that women were “in a better position than politicians” to make abortion decisions. And a slim majority stated that the Kansas state government shouldn’t regulate abortions at all.

Nevertheless, the Republican legislature may very well, if the amendment passes, demonstrate how it “values them both” by denying the right to abortion even in cases of rape and incest.

This effort to enact a constitutional amendment is, the anti-choice forces assert, simply an attempt to return the decision to the people.

But I agree with Cottle:

“The whole process smacks not so much of returning power to the people as of showing contempt for them and for the democratic process — a trend that is becoming standard operating procedure for much of the G.O.P.”

A personal note: Though financial and other support is coming in for/from both sides, Cottle notes that in Kansas and other red and purple states, pro-choice advocates must counter opposition claims that the battle is being waged “by elitist, lefty outsiders. A hot talking point among the amendment’s supporters is that ‘the radical left’ and ‘coastal elites’ are trying to ram their values down the throats of sensible, moderate Kansans.”

So it seems my postcard writing means I’m one of those evil, radical folk trying to tell “sensible, moderate Kansans” how they can oppose an amendment designed to trick them into voting in a way they don’t intend. I wear that label as a badge of honor.

The Kansas proposed constitutional amendment to eliminate reproductive rights may be the first we’ve seen by a state…but it’s guaranteed not to be the last.

Each such move exponentially increases the number of women and families who are being grievously harmed.

On the other hand, think of the impact if Kansas–Kansas!–votes to defend the right to choose. If you know anyone in Kansas or with ties to the state, please spread the word. And if you can donate a few dollars to Kansans for Constitutional Freedom, the bipartisan pro-reproductive rights group, you can help them counter the Republican trickery.


12 thoughts on “What’s the Matter in Kansas? Abortion Law Trickery Likely to Spread

  1. I can sort of understand why there is some support for this fuckery by poorly masculine males but why the support of women? Men have always been coming up with dumb ideas and then being the lazy sots they are getting women to do the work. Why? Have you never noticed how many times a man can walk by sink full of dirty dishes and never have the urge to wash them? It might not be a “Kansas ” problem.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Interestingly, polls show support for choice very similar among men and women, though I do think women feel it more viscerally. But opposition to abortion in extreme circumstances—rape, incest, and life of pregnant woman—is very low nationwide. Majority opinion for choice has been growing since the SC’s travesty.


      1. Less than half of Americans even attend a church. Catholicism in the US reports that 58% of catholic women and 26% of catholic men attend regular service. Extrapolate across other religions (Even southern baptists rarely crack 60%)only half of women and 25% men have a committed religious view and many religions have a pragmatic view of health care. There just aren’t enough voices there to explain it. Anecdotally of eight catholic women I know really well, 2 wives,3 children and 3 granddaughters all are pro-choice. There was also the time I was in the bar at last call with 7 beautiful women where I learned to my chagrin that all seven of them had experienced sexual harassment and/or sexual assault. Something else must be in play.


      2. Similarly, quite a bit less than half of Americans are strongly anti-abortion. Those figures for regular church attendance and having a “committed religious view” are comparable to, or higher than, the figures for how many Americans are strongly anti-abortion. It fits quite well.


      3. Infidel and Richard: Note July 15 Pew Research poll:


        Re overturning Roe: 57% disapprove (43% strongly); 41% approve (25% strongly). Ten percent gap between women—62% disapprove; 52% men.

        Big gaps re: religion primarily between unaffiliated and white Evangelicals ( 6 in 10 Catholics support legal). And increased partisan gap over years, with more Dems favoring legalization and Republicans fairly consistent over time. But majority of Rs favor abortion in some circumstances.

        A quick observation: state laws barring abortion without exceptions are totally out of step with all but narrowest white Evangelical base.


  2. How deceitful! What trickery! Confusing, misleading . . . why hold a vote at all if the ballot language is worded to assure a foregone conclusion. I assume there are emails available online for the searching and I intend to forward this blog to Kansas legislators. Thanks, as always, for laying it out!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Denise: I welcome your desire to act, but I think time is better spent contacting Kansans for Constitutional Freedom to see how you might help. It’s reasonable to assume the tricksters have no shame.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Eisenhower for sure! Probably Reagan as well. And when Liz Cheney, who’s to the right of—well, just about everyone except her trumpie opponent—becomes the beacon of democracy (while failing to vote to protect voting rights), that says a lot.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Interesting! Perhaps it’s safe to say that the late-in-life Eisenhower would have condemned him. I knew he tried to stay above the fray, but that campaigning anecdote shows a realpolitik side that surprised me.
        And then there’s the executive privilege episode, which brings us back to the present. Thanks, whungerford!


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