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Election 2022

Roe v. Wade impact: ‘Value Them Both’ doesn’t

Whether you’re pro-life, pro-choice, or somewhere in between, last week’s ruling on Roe v. Wade makes the “Value Them Both” ballot proposal more important — and more confusing.

Even if you don’t choose to vote in partisan primaries Aug. 2, you still can cast your ballot on this divisive issue — provided you register no later than July 12. (If you’ve moved, you’ll need to re-register with the county clerk or online.)

The title “Value Them Both” and the text and description of the proposed amendment are at best legally confusing and at worst politically misleading.

Despite what the language implies, a “yes” vote neither bans nor allows abortion. It simply puts the issue into the eager hands of the state legislature, which in recent years has been dominated by staunch abortion opponents.

Those who think voting “yes” will stop abortion should consider that political winds change. Within many readers’ lifetimes, the Republican Party in Kansas was pro-choice, and the Democratic Party was pro-life. Soon after he left office, for example, Dwight Eisenhower, revered among fundamentalist Republicans, became honorary president of Planned Parenthood, which many of these same fundamentalists now detest.

“Value Them Both” was written in part to dance around Roe v. Wade. Now that Roe v. Wade is gone, all the dancing could leave us in a dizzying state of confusion.

If the goal is to ban abortion, what we vote on should propose just that rather than leave the issue up to political vagaries, including the possibility of gubernatorial vetoes, which would keep in place the state’s current law of essentially unlimited abortion.

The proposal is just as deceptive if the goal is to allow abortion in some cases. Although it mentions the possibility of exceptions in cases of rape, incest, or dangers to the mother’s health, it does absolutely nothing to require or guarantee these exceptions.

The “them” in “Value Them Both” does not appear to be women and children. It appears to refer to the Kansas House and Kansas Senate, which would gain total power over the issue.

Unborn children are not assured that limits on abortion will be enacted. Pregnant women are not assured that the legislature will preserve even the slightest shred of their reproductive rights — the right to terminate a pregnancy resulting from rape or incest or one that threatens the mother’s life.

The amendment is a blank check, allowing the legislature to do whatever it wants. While an argument can be made that it’s better for legislators instead of judges to decide such issues, giving yet more power to the good old boys in Topeka isn’t a solution anyone should eagerly embrace on any topic.

Putting on the ballot a referendum question containing unenforceable implications that concerns such as rape, incest, and danger to a mother’s life might be dealt with is a deception unworthy of either branch of government. What clearly isn’t valued by “Value Them Both” is the intelligence of Kansas voters.

If those writing the proposed amendment really were willing to allow exceptions for cases of rape, incest, and danger to a mother’s life — or in situations such as when a fetus is so deformed as to be unlikely to survive and to die in great pain — why didn’t they include these as guarantees?

If the real goal was to eliminate or substantially curtail legal abortion and women’s reproductive rights, why not say that upfront instead of crafting language that seems to seek to appeal to everyone without actually doing anything except giving the legislature total power?

Roe v. Wade was not absolutist but a compromise. A woman’s right to choose whether she must continue an unwanted pregnancy started out as nearly absolute but diminished to near zero during the course of a pregnancy as the unborn child’s independent viability and, therefore, right to life rose, eventually surpassing the mother’s right to choose.

Exactly how to implement such a compromise always will be subject to debate, but on a difficult issue that includes competing rights on both sides, compromise tends to be the best solution.

For some, religious beliefs enter the equation. However, a hallmark of America — unlike radical Islamic nations we oppose — is that religion neither controls nor is controlled by our laws. Religion is personal morality. Just as God, in the belief of many, gives us the right to choose right or wrong rather than force us to obey, laws should not dictate a person’s morality but rather should attempt only to balance competing rights, which is exactly what Roe v. Wade attempted to do.

The real “value” in “Value Them Both” will be to TV stations. Huge amounts of money are likely to be spent in coming weeks on commercials trying to scare us into voting one way or the other. Ironically, a lot of that money — at least among fundamentalist, conservative Republicans — is likely to come from the Koch family.

What’s odd is that the Kochs are libertarians. Although many of their views are shared by fundamentalist conservatives, two typically are not. As libertarians, the Kochs tend to reject governmental interference in matters of personal morality, such as abortion and sexuality. They are on record as pro-choice and as favoring such things as same-sex marriage, yet their money often funds campaigns of those who bitterly oppose such positions.

If Kansans really want to take a definitive action on abortion — one that does, in fact, value both the unborn and their perhaps unwilling mothers — it needs to reject “Value Them Both” and insist on writing a different amendment — one that no longer tries to dance around Roe v. Wade but rather means what it says.

Voters should have a right to know we’re voting on instead of simply handing a blank check to the legislature. Replacing admitted judicial overreach with deceptive legislative overreach is not the answer. With this issue likely to draw to the polls extremists on both sides, it’s vital for those with more moderate opinions to make sure their votes also are counted.

— ERIC MEYER

Last modified June 30, 2022

 

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