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John Pratt: Kansas gives us hope in abortion fight

John Pratt
Kansas cartoon

By John Pratt

Kansas voters rejected, 59-41, a proposed amendment to our state Constitution on the subject of abortion. This amendment, which was certainly intended to pave the way for an outright ban on the procedure, was couched in deliberately confusing language and was timed in such a way as to make it less likely that those who would oppose the motion would come out to vote. The proposers gambled that, as William Butler Yeats wrote, “The best lack all conviction while the worst are full of passionate intensity.” Fortunately, their calculations did not work out, and I felt pleased to have had a part, albeit very small, in helping get out the “No” vote.

It should be noted that abortion is already regulated by the state. If one wants an abortion, there are a good many hoops one has to jump through. The obligatory “counseling” is hardly abortion-neutral and is definitely designed to discourage the patient from terminating the pregnancy no matter how good her reasons for doing so might be. This is then followed by a 24-hour waiting period — just another obstacle thrown in the patient’s path for no reason other than to be an obstacle. The ultrasound requirement, too, is not there to convey to the patient any information of which they may have previously been unaware, it is simply an appeal to emotion, rather than reason. All of us at times, even the most rational, can be moved by the psychological impressiveness of images or facts, rather than by the careful reflection of reason upon them. 

In a sense, this matter should never really have been on the ballot at all. Reproductive freedom is an individual choice, a basic right, like the freedom to marry who one chooses (provided they agree, of course). The continuance (or not) of a pregnancy is, or should be, a matter between the woman concerned, her partner, if any, and her physician, and in that order, and is certainly not the business of any priest or politician. And individual rights are not up for popular vote. I should remark also that this enthusiasm for letting the people decide by majority vote on this matter reveals its counterfeit quality when it is well known that a substantial majority of Americans favor at least some access to abortion. To a cynic, it would appear that these people just cannot take “no” for an answer, and approve of majority rule only so long as it coincides with their agenda!

The hopeful side to the picture is that self-administered medication, to the extent that it is widely and readily available, will enable most people to circumvent these obstacles, and supportive organizations like Whole Women’s Health are trying to expand their “Wayfinder” program which provides financial and other assistance to women who live in states hostile to abortion and need to travel out of state for the procedure. I would urge readers to make a donation to this program, or one like it. Hopefully, good networking and coordination between these organizations can effectively nullify the efforts of the antiabortion extremists and those Supreme Court justices who aided and abetted them. Then, they may as well try and keep water in a sieve. However, while certainly better than nothing, these should be regarded as stop-gap measures until the right to full reproductive freedom can be fully and finally entrenched in law, which in the current political climate, is not likely to happen anytime soon. But abortion is one of those things with a “best before” date, and people need help now.

It is my hope that this unexpected result here in Kansas (almost everyone, on both sides thought that the percentages would be very much closer) will motivate people to get out and vote in every election they can, big or small. One has only to read the “Crankmail” section of Freethought Today to see what those of us who value reason, evidence, the scientific method and the separation of church and state are up against. The disdain of these cranks — and, alas, there are millions like them — for all of the above reasons (as well as for spelling, grammar and punctuation) should concern us all. These people vote. So should we.

John Pratt is a member from Kansas.