Pro-life leaders say they are disappointed but undeterred after Kansas voters on Tuesday overwhelmingly defeated a constitutional amendment that would have opened the door for more restrictions on abortion in the state.
Amendment 2, which would have declared there is no right to abortion within the Kansas Constitution, trailed 59-41 percent, with 97 percent of the vote counted. A pre-election survey taken two weeks before Election Day on August 2, showed Amendment 2 barely ahead, 47-43 percent.
The election drew nationwide attention and ad money.
Although bordering states such as Texas and Oklahoma have adopted abortion restrictions in light of new U.S. Supreme Court precedent, Kansas legislators had their hands tied in 2019 when the Kansas Supreme Court ruled that the state Constitution protects the right to abortion.
Amendment 2 would have placed the issue back in the legislature. Now, though, pro-life advocates are left plotting their next strategy.
“Tonight’s results are a tragic setback for Kansas, but will do nothing to stop the pro-life movement’s momentum to pass unprecedented legal protections for preborn children across the nation,” said Lila Rose, founder of Live Action. “For justice and for life, we fight on.”
The media and the abortion community, she said, “worked overtime for months spreading lies in Kansas” and spending millions to defeat Amendment 2.
Every person deserves the right to life, and human life begins at the moment of fertilization. Our law will not be Justice until it reflects that reality. The media & abortion industry worked overtime for months spreading lies in Kansas, spending millions to influence the vote.
— Lila Rose (@LilaGraceRose) August 3, 2022
“Our response is to work even harder to combat the lies & advocate for authentic, non-violent healthcare for women & the protection of all children,” Rose said.
Our response is to work even harder to combat the lies & advocate for authentic, non-violent healthcare for women & the protection of all children. As more Americans wake up to the truth & pass pro-life laws, our movement to make abortion both illegal & unthinkable will prevail.
— Lila Rose (@LilaGraceRose) August 3, 2022
The coalition that opposed Amendment 2 labeled themselves “Kansans for Constitutional Freedom” and ran ads saying the proposal would lead to the banning of abortion “with no exceptions for rape, incest or at mother’s life.” Another ad compared bans on abortion to laws that require the wearing of masks in businesses. “Say no to more government control,” it said. Another ad showed a retired Presbyterian pastor urging Kansans to “respect and trust women as God does.”
Alexandra DeSanctis Marr, a pro-life writer for National Review, said the result in Kansas is “not a bellwether on abortion.”
“[S]upporters of abortion effectively won the messaging battle,” she wrote. “While many Kansans likely opposed the state supreme court ruling finding a right to abortion in the constitution and would prefer more pro-life laws than are currently permitted, they also didn’t like the idea of a total abortion ban, which is how the other side managed to cast the amendment.”
Most Americans, she added, “oppose enacting total protections for unborn children” but “also oppose allowing abortion for any reason until birth.”
“This debate is in many ways a messaging battle, and we will be more successful in the long run if we continue to highlight the grotesque extremism of the other side than if we allow them to put us on defense,” DeSanctis wrote.
Ed Whelan, a distinguished senior fellow for the Ethics and Public Policy Center, also urged pro-lifers to tweak their strategy.
“Voters facing what they see as a choice between two imperfect options on abortion policy – one too restrictive, one too permissive – will go with the one that is too permissive,” Whelan wrote. “Pro-lifers need to meet the voters where they are. To be sure, there is still a huge role for persuasion. But that might well be a long-term process. Pro-lifers need to pursue principled incrementalism.”
To be sure, there is still a huge role for persuasion. But that might well be a long-term process. Pro-lifers need to pursue principled incrementalism.
— Ed Whelan (@EdWhelanEPPC) August 3, 2022
Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/SabdiZ
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.