I was on vacation last week, and I unplugged from the news for a bit to really focus on relaxing. Inevitably, though, some big stories got through. Thus, I couldn’t help but give a little cheer from a camp chair along the sandy shores of the Chesapeake Bay when I heard about the vote in Kansas upholding abortion rights.
What’s especially gratifying is that Kansans voted the way they did despite efforts by right-wingers in the state to game the system. Officials put the referendum question on a primary ballot that mostly attracts Republican voters, hoping to depress turnout among pro-choice forces. It didn’t work. The people of Kansas went to the polls and made it clear that they support the right to legal abortion.
The hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church and other anti-abortion groups poured millions into the referendum. As Jack Jenkins of Religion News Service reported, the Kansas City Archdiocese spent about $2.45 million on the campaign, and the dioceses of Wichita and Salina kicked in an additional $600,000 at least. Individual Catholic parishes around the state also contributed, and a political action committee affiliated with the conservative wing of the church added $500,000.
After the results came in and it was clear that the attempt to remove the right to abortion from the Kansas Constitution had soundly failed (59% to 41%), Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City issued a statement bemoaning, “We were not able to overcome the millions spent by the abortion industry to mislead Kansans about the amendment, nor the overwhelming bias of the secular press whose failure to report clearly on the true nature of the amendment served to advance the cause of the abortion industry.”
This rings just a bit hollow given the millions the church spent trying to write its theology into the laws of Kansas.
It’s also just a tad offensive of Naumann to assert that Kansans are so simple-minded that they were, sheep-like, led astray by the evil secular media.
Maybe, just maybe, the people of Kansas understood that their rights were at risk. Perhaps they grasped that a large, powerful religious group was trying to make Kansas law mirror its theology – so they rose up and put a stop to it. (And guess what – plenty of Catholics were among them.)
The Supreme Court’s June 24 decision overturning Roe v. Wade was appalling. Efforts are under way in Congress to pass a federal bill codifying abortion rights, but that will be challenging given the 50-50 split in the Senate. For the time being, the focus will be on the states. Much to the surprise of many, Kansas, a deep red state, is leading the way.