August 4, 2022

Kansas Abortion Vote

“Kansas voters on Tuesday rejected an effort to remove abortion protections from the state's constitution… With 98% of the vote counted, 59% of voters favored preserving abortion rights compared to nearly 41% who supported removing abortion protections from the state constitution.” Reuters

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From the Left

The left is encouraged by the result, and optimistic that abortion could be a winning issue in the midterms.

"Lines of Kansas voters, resolute in the August sun and 100-degree heat, stretched beyond the doors of polling sites and wrapped around buildings on Tuesday to cast ballots in a primary election. A few suffered heat exhaustion. Firefighters passed out bottles of water. When polls closed at 7 p.m. Central time, many were still in line…

“One dismal aspect of our political climate is the ease with which many liberals and progressives dismiss and disdain whole states and regions — as though every Kentucky flood victim voted for Mitch McConnell, as though ideology should be a litmus test for assistance amid acute suffering, as though such places are undeserving charity cases rather than rural landscapes from which resources are extracted to make possible the lives of urban dwellers who sit in judgment…

“[But] All reasonable Americans must plant ourselves in a long row and lock arms against the terrible wind from the far right. As we brace together for this post-Roe season, take heart: In the first battle, Kansas held the line.”

Sarah Smarsh, New York Times

"[This] calls into doubt the expected anti-abortion victory in November in Kentucky, which will vote on a very similar constitutional amendment; and in Montana, where Republicans are trying to do the same. Indeed, the results may encourage abortion-rights advocates to seek state voter-approved pro-choice state constitutional amendments… [and] create incentives for judges to interpret state constitutions favorably to abortion rights, just like those in Kansas did, with the assurance that voters have their backs…

“Beyond the immediate issue, though, both the outcome and the enthusiasm exhibited by those who turned out to vote ‘no’ to abortion bans in Kansas suggest that if Democrats make this a signature issue for the 2022 midterms, their currently bleak prospects in November — much of it based on the assumption that discouraged Democrats won’t vote — could turn around quickly."

Ed Kilgore, New York Magazine

"During George W. Bush’s presidency, Republicans boosted turnout in swing states by placing measures opposing same-sex marriage on the ballot. That brought cultural conservatives out to vote and worked to the GOP’s advantage for a time. More recently, Democrats in Western states have offered measures legalizing marijuana in various ways to lure younger voters to the polls…

“But in most places, abortion will not literally be on the ballot this fall. Democrats need to figure out how to frame races between politicians as referendums on women’s rights. As intuitive as it might seem to the candidates themselves, the linkage isn’t always obvious to voters… Tuesday’s results in Kansas suggest Democrats can press their advantage in a very difficult cycle. And the outcome should give pause to overzealous GOP legislators who are pursuing abortion bans without exceptions for rape, incest or the health of the mother."

James Hohmann, Washington Post

From the Right

The right is disappointed by the result, and encourages the pro-life movement not to move too fast.

The right is disappointed by the result, and encourages the pro-life movement not to move too fast.

“The press corps is making a big deal of the defeat of the Kansas abortion referendum on Tuesday, and for once they’re right. The 20-or-so point rout of the effort to strip abortion protections from the state constitution is a message to Republicans and the anti-abortion movement that a total ban isn’t popular even in a right-leaning state…

“One message is that voters are wary of extremes on either side of the abortion issue. A majority of the public supports a right to abortion at least up to several weeks of pregnancy. This is disappointing to those who believe life begins at conception, but it means the pro-life side has persuading to do if it wants to win the abortion debate. That’s the burden of democracy, which is what the Supreme Court allowed to return on abortion in overturning Roe… The Supreme Court didn’t settle the abortion question. It rightly returned it to the voters, and the Kansas referendum is merely the start of a long national debate.”

Editorial Board, Wall Street Journal

All sides need to learn the new lay of the land in the post-Roe era and think more incrementally. Liberals responded with bills that would have legalized abortion to the moment of birth and the elimination of conscience protections, while conservatives responded with outright bans and constitutionally absurd interstate-travel prohibitions. Neither of those positions remotely represent the vast majority of the American electorate on abortion…

“It’s not surprising that Kansas voters want to take a deep breath and spend some time absorbing the Dobbs impact before making large-scale changes to public policy. Both sides of the issue might be well advised to take a hint and work on discovering what people want first before attempting to make those wholesale changes. In the meantime, though, this doesn’t signal a midterm shift. And to the extent that abortion is even in the mix at this moment, two more reports on inflation and another quarter of wage erosion will keep voters focused on the real crisis in their everyday lives.”

Ed Morrissey, Hot Air

The pro-life movement should “focus on winning where the wins are within reach, and pushing no further than necessary. If it takes a 15-week, or twelve-week, or six-week ban, if it takes exceptions for rape and incest, or a larger ‘health’ exception than seems prudent: so be it. Once the principle of life is established in a state, incremental progress can be sought later…

“[The movement should also] be willing to compromise. Compromise is painful when it means leaving some children to their deaths; no later progress can undo that. But it is how progress in a democracy works. And pro-lifers now have the advantage on that score. The pro-life ideology is that all human life is sacred at every stage and should be protected in law, but a law that protects some lives is better than a law that protects no lives… We knew, after Dobbs, that we would not win every battle ahead. But we should plan for the long game.”

Dan McLaughlin, National Review

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