People rally in support of abortion rights, July 2, 2022, in Kansas City, Mo. The Parson administration's response to questions from Missouri hospitals, doctors and others about what's legal under the state's new abortion ban is to tell people to read the law and otherwise leave it to prosecutors to interpret. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel, File)

Kansans say no to a “reproductive police state.” Will Kyians do the same?

Berry Craig
Berry Craig

Tamarra Wieder might have tacked an “I told you so” onto her prepared statement welcoming the thumping defeat of that anti-abortion constitutional amendment in Kansas.

Instead, the Kentucky state director of Planned Parenthood Alliance Advocates repeated her claim "that abortion rights is a winning issue.” She also predicted that Kentucky voters will likewise turn thumbs down on a similar amendment on Nov. 8.

Constitutional amendment #2 on this fall’s ballot would change the state charter to read, “...nothing in this Constitution shall be construed to secure or protect a right to abortion or require the funding of abortion.”

“Poll after poll has shown that Kentuckians support access to all reproductive health options, including abortion,” Wieder’s statement also said. “And voters will make that clear ... when they reject Amendment 2 and show up for abortion rights.”

Abortion opponents and their Republican allies will probably scoff at Wieder’s prognostication that Amendment 2 is doomed. After all, Kentucky is mostly rural, Bible Belt conservative, and among the reddest of Republican Red states.

But so is Kansas, where voters by a margin of 59-41 percent said no to a proposal to amend the state constitution to read “....the constitution of the state of Kansas does not require government funding of abortion and does not create or secure a right to abortion.”

The Kansas vote was the first real gauge of public sentiment on abortion since the Supreme Court overturned Roe. Is the result an early sign that even many  conservative and Republican voters think the Dobbs ruling was a bridge too far?

“The Kansas vote also provided a warning to Republicans who had celebrated the Supreme Court ruling and were moving swiftly with abortion bans or near-bans in nearly half the states,” wrote Associated Press reporters John Hanna and Margaret Stafford.

They quoted Kimberly Inez McGuire, executive director of Unite for Reproductive & Gender Equity: “Kansans bluntly rejected anti-abortion politicians’ attempts at creating a reproductive police state. Today’s vote was a powerful rebuke and a promise of the mounting resistance.”

Will Kentucky voters also rebuke, resist, and opt to preserve in their constitution what Wieder called “a protected right to privacy and bodily sovereignty”?

Argued Wieder: “A true democracy demands the freedom promised in our Constitution, and the right to bodily autonomy is at the center of freedom. ... Kentuckians deserve the right to reproductive freedom.”

A majority of Kansans evidently agree that they merit that right.

Notwithstanding the results in Kansas, it seems likely that the Republican politicians at Fancy Farm this Saturday will insist that Kentucky is not Kansas, and will double-down on burnishing their pro-Amendment 2 and “pro-life” creds.

“They're not pro-life, they’re just pro-birth,” says one of my union brothers. “They don’t care what happens to the mother and the baby after it’s born.”

In her statement, Wieder noted “Kentucky ranks 49th in material maternal mortality, and reports show it’s because all states with abortion bans are among the least supportive for mothers and children.”

But I suspect that underlying the loud anti-abortion pronouncimentos from the GOP side of the Fancy Farm stage will be a gnawing fear that a majority of Kentuckians will emulate their Kansas cousins this fall.

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Berry Craig

Berry Craig is a professor emeritus of history at West KY Community College, and an author of seven books and co-author of two more. (Read the rest on the Contributors page.)


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