Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2023|
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The nation now knows, and the world: Kansas remains a free state.
In a stunning display of common sense, Kansas voters Tuesday overwhelmingly rejected a constitutional amendment that would have put abortion policy completely in the hands of the Legislature, and the governor.
It was a victory on several fronts. First, and most important, it was a victory for women. Kansans said in a loud, unmistakable voice that women can and should be trusted with the most intimate questions of their own health and safety.
It was also a victory for voters, who defied predictions of a low turnout and cast ballots in churches, gyms, city halls and community centers. Many voted early. Voters were able to dissect puzzling ballot language, purposely designed to confuse and intimidate.
They rejected false nonsense from anti-abortion groups, including several ludicrous attempts to link the vote to so-called critical race theory, or defunding police. A last-minute text message, apparently authorized by a group run by former U.S. Rep. Tim Huelskamp, was quickly disregarded as a bald-faced lie.
Tuesday was also a victory for Kansans who oppose heavy-handed government intervention in private decisions. In 2019, the Kansas Supreme Court said a woman’s right to choose abortion is inalienable — it cannot be taken away. It was the right decision.
In 2022, Kansas voters overwhelmingly endorsed that view.
In a normal environment, opponents of abortion rights would take “no” for an answer. Don’t count on it. We fully expect state lawmakers to push anti-choice bills next year, particularly if a Republican is elected governor. Those laws will then be tested in court.
Remember, the state Supreme Court has said some restrictions on abortion are still allowed. The rules must meet a tough standard, but they’re legal.
There will be an attempt in November to dislodge sitting Kansas Supreme Court judges. Don’t fall for it. The same voters who endorsed choice Tuesday should endorse the court as well.
While deeply satisfying, Tuesday’s victory should not be a reason for gloating, or pointing fingers. Abortion remains difficult, divisive and morally difficult. That’s the main reason government should stay out of the decision-making process. At the same time, we should not forget the attempt by some faith leaders to inject themselves into the campaign. We said faith could be an important factor in Tuesday’s decision, but that no church has a right to impose its views on those who believe other ways, or not at all.
That lesson must remain embedded in Kansas politics. It’s particularly galling that so-called religious leaders embraced a campaign deeply reliant on misinformation and lies to try to convince voters. The rhetoric was appalling.
We hope legislators learned an important lesson, too. Kansas Republicans wanted to hold the election in a sleepy August primary, and wanted to obfuscate their intentions with muddled ballot language. They got their wish. Voters brushed them aside.
Don’t try that again.
In the days ahead, pundits will analyze the Kansas results, and try to apply them to other states. We welcome that work. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito said states, not women, should decide this issue. Now Kansas, among the most conservative states in the nation, has answered his call.
Again, congratulations to Kansans who voted to trust women. It was a vote that will be remembered for 100 years.
— The Kansas City Star
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