Every vote in America now is about abortion


The pro-choice jubilation that gripped the state of Kansas is beginning to die down, as all victory celebrations eventually do. What’s less clear is whether the revelers realize they’re still running into howling headwinds.

This is despite the overwhelming support Kansans showed in the August 2 vote for reproductive rights. In a roughly 60/40 split, voters passed an amendment that would have opened the door to a conservative Kansas legislature intent on restricting abortion.

Nothing about the vote prevents these lawmakers from trying new frontiers to try to raise the issue again in court.

The struggle to regain reproductive rights in Kansas and America has only just begun. And Kansas is more of an anomaly than what will be the norm in most states.

In November, voters in only four other states will similarly see abortion explicitly on the ballot as a constitutional question in their state: California, Michigan, Vermont and Kentucky.

Most Americans will encounter it less directly through the views of politicians championing various issues.

Indiana provides the proof. The State of Hoosier was the first to adopt a post-Roe v. Wade illustrated.

The Indiana legislature prohibited abortion from conception, with few exceptions. It’s been a struggle for GOP moderates to pass exceptions for rape, incest, fatal fetal abnormalities and maternal health.

Executives at Indianapolis-based Eli Lilly and Company were quick to respond, making threatening statements that the drugmaker expected the new restrictions would limit its hiring and growth plans.

“In light of this new law, we will be forced to plan for more job growth outside of our home state,” the company’s statement said.

But will those same upper-income Lilly executives, the C-suite executives, punish lawmakers in re-elections? Or could they streamline a vote to protect tax cuts, ensure less regulation, or provide incentives to increase the company’s bottom line?

Corporate executives aren’t exactly known for being single-spend choosers.

The same goes for members of the Indian Chamber of Commerce, who also expressed dismay, calling the new law “reckless”.

This comes just days after voters in Kansas strongly demonstrated what polls show: most Americans support access to abortion, within limits.

And yet this is not as important as the pro-lifers would like it to be. This is a harsh, demoralizing truth. But the sooner the pro-choice side accepts the situation, the sooner they’ll be on firm ground to act.

The most sobering interview I’ve had in recent months was with a University of Kansas professor who has studied abortion laws for decades.

Professor Alesha E. Doan, 50, does not believe she will see reproductive rights restored in her lifetime. This reason lies in the political landscape of the crazy districts. These include districts of hyperconservative state legislatures and conservative appellate judges, and are rigidly opposed to easy winding up.

Those foundations were laid over decades, while most pro-choice voters weren’t paying attention. The assumption among pro-choice people was that the federal decision to abortion in Roe v. Wade was securely anchored.

To be sure, journalists regularly reported on the gradual erosion of reproductive rights, the framing of it by various politicians as a single issue, and the politicization of religious views that emphasize life at conception. However, those stories weren’t enough to raise the big red flag, which quickly surfaced when the Supreme Court announced in a leaked memo in early May that it was likely to hear Roe v. Wade would fall.

This dynamic of the shock and backlash of this memo and the eventual decision helped organize new and veteran voters around the Kansas vote. That all-hands-on-deck energy isn’t that easy to replicate even in November.

Here’s the new rule: Every vote is about abortion.

A governor can either veto or sign into law what the legislature passes. The Secretary of State oversees the elections and processes that bring these state officials into office, the retention of judges will play a role as they tend to uphold prohibitions or reproductive rights, the Attorney General can decide how fiercely the office will defend state laws.

For those still unsure how Roe v. Wade was overthrown, here’s what happened: Democrats and pro-choice voters believed abortion rights were protected with Roe v. Wade was sealed. Meanwhile, anti-abortion forces slowly and very cunningly shifted the political landscape to undermine the historic verdict.

Regaining that ground requires using the same playbook, one that has been practiced almost expertly by religious conservatives.

Faith plays the long game. It is the strength of the most ardent religious, among whom we find many anti-abortion supporters. The latter patiently restructured the composition of the nation’s courts and many of its legislatures. They did so with a single-minded determination.

Pro-choice voters will regain some leverage only if they adopt the focused kind of patient diligence that the religious right has used to achieve their goal.

Mary Sanchez is a columnist for the Tribune Content Agency.


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