Kansas gave Donald Trump around 57% of its votes in both 2016 and 2020. Yet, barring approval of a constitutional amendment Aug. 2, it could become one of the most abortion-friendly states in the Union.
That concern – and the need to fight what they say is rampant misinformation about the “Value Them Both” amendment – is why pro-life activists staged a roundtable for the media Tuesday in suburban Kansas City, to set the record straight on both the stakes and mistakes in the fiery campaign.
National conservative icon Matt Schlapp, a Kansas native, joined eight women – mothers, a doctor, a legislator, an abortion survivor and others – to explain the amendment and its importance, and to plead for truthful reporting on it.
Money and voices from outside Kansas are flooding the state in opposition to the amendment, which would simply restore the Legislature’s authority to protect and enact regulations on abortion. The Kansas Supreme Court ruled in 2019 that abortion was an inherent right in the state constitution, meaning some 20 state laws regulating it are now presumed unconstitutional.
Many believe, wrongly, that the amendment would ban abortion, the panel said. Many others mistakenly believe that existing state laws on abortion are sufficient – not realizing that those very laws are now at risk of being struck down due to the 2019 ruling.
Indeed, two such laws already have been struck down: one setting abortion clinic health and safety standards, and another banning dismemberment abortions.
The 2019 ruling “removed from the people of Kansas the ability to place any regulations or limitations on the abortion industry,” said panel moderator Danielle Underwood, director of communications for Kansans for Life.
Kansans won’t allow “unelected judges” to decide how abortion is regulated in the state, Underwood said. Likewise, Schlapp and other panelists said, misinformation can’t be allowed to decide the amendment’s fate.
“We won’t allow you to lie about the fundamental question of the right to life of the unborn child. We won’t allow you to lie about what this amendment does and does not do,” Schlapp said.
“I’m troubled by the lies that are coming from out of state,” added state Rep. Susan Humphries, who was instrumental in the two-year fight in the Legislature to get the amendment on the ballot.
“Every one of those regulations that were passed with bipartisan support in the last 20 years – common-sense regulations – every one one of those is presumed unconstitutional,” Humphries said. “We crafted that language carefully. The truth is, what the amendment does, it takes the decision of abortion regulations to the people of Kansas, through their elected representatives.”
“I would hate someone to make a decision of this magnitude based on false information or straight-out lies,” added Dr. Kelly Byrd, a Kansas native and pediatrician.
One Kansas law at risk is a parental notification requirement for minors seeking abortions. Byrd said one woman told her she was voting against Value Them Both so she can be there for her child in the event of a crisis pregnancy – if she knows about it, that is. She might not, if the state’s parental notification law is struck down.
Byrd said that, as a pediatrician, she too wants to be there for a minor in a crisis pregnancy. But she needs the parents’ involvement as the minors’ best advocate, she said. “I have to be able to talk to an adult. I have to be able to talk to a mother or father. It truly breaks my heart if that were to change.”
“This is a charged, emotional topic, I understand that,” said panelist Tashayla Person, a single mother and vice president of a nonprofit organization. “But let’s have a conversation based on facts. Let’s know what we’re talking about – just base all of our decisions on facts, and not on hysteria and misinformation.”
As for the parental notification law for minors seeking abortions, parent and panelist Jenna Halvorsen noted, “There’s a reason why they can’t have a license or can’t vote. Heck, I can’t bring them to the trampoline park without a waiver.” But if the law is struck down, a minor could get an abortion without a parent knowing.
Another law at risk requires women to be fully informed about abortion risks and fetal development. It’s information one panelist, identified only as Danette, wasn’t given before her abortion years ago.
“I was told I wasn’t aborting a baby – I was aborting a piece of tissue,” she said. “And I understand they’re still saying that. A week later, I looked like I was eight months pregnant. … I had to go back in and have the procedure done all over again, because there was parts that were left inside of me. And I wasn’t that far along.”
Danette said she’d felt coerced into the abortion by her husband. That’s a situation Ruth Tisdale fights against, as the executive director of Advice & Aid Pregnancy Centers.
“We do our work because we believe that no woman should be coerced, no woman should feel so alone, no woman should feel like she is hopeless to the point that she has to take the life of her child through an abortion,” Tisdale said. “We are there to support her, so that she can make a decision that she can live with for the rest of her life.”
Oddly enough, in a state red enough to have twice given Trump such a wide margin of victory, pro-life supporters may be the underdog in this campaign – with national pro-abortion forces focusing so much attention on the Aug. 2 election in Kansas. Pro-lifers are fighting against mass media campaigns – as well as a climate of fear, intimidation and vandalism – largely with their own grassroots, boots-on-the-ground campaign that relies on individual conversations educating voters about the amendment.
But they’ve got those foot soldiers in all 105 counties, Underwood says.
“We realized that we were going to have to battle back against money pouring in across our borders from outside forces that want to force this extreme agenda on Kansas,” she told the audience Tuesday.
“The fact that we’re seeing this escalation of intimidation, aggression, acts of vandalism – that is not a Kansas value. That tells us that we have outside forces that have been coming in with extreme views into Kansas, trying to force this on Kansas, to become a destination state for unlimited abortions, even abortions up until the moment of birth.”
Indeed, even the pro-abortion Guttmacher Institute admits Kansas could experience a 1,000% increase in abortions post-Roe v. Wade. And there’s already been a 17% increase in dismemberment abortions in Kansas since the ban was struck down last year, says Melissa Ohden, abortion survivor and founder and CEO of Abortion Survivors Network.
Responding to repeated thefts of signs and vandalism, such as at Church of the Ascension in Overland Park, Byrd said the opposition’s venom is misdirected. This is not a church decision, she said.
“This is a scientific fact that is very well-established amongst qualified, respectable, highly educated medical professionals – that life begins at conception,” the doctor said. “Please don’t make this a Catholic thing or a Christian thing.
“The churches have no problem taking the blame. We can be targeted, and that’s the decision of those individuals doing that kind of vandalism. But this isn’t a decision based solely on faith, or because you are a faith-filled individual. This is a medical, scientific fact decision.”