By: TIPPINSIGHTS EDITORIAL BOARD, TIPP Insights
The Liberal media has been covering Tuesday’s primary election results non-stop, focusing on just one news story. Kansas citizens, by a 59% to 41% margin, voted not to amend the state constitution regarding abortion. Every outlet described it as a resounding victory for the abortion rights movement, in defiance of the United States Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.
The New York Times was, as usual, its colorful self: “The defeat of the ballot referendum was the most tangible demonstration yet of a political backlash against the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision.” The Guardian: “Kansas’ vote to protect abortion rights upends U.S. midterm elections.” The U.S. News and World Report: “Abortion Vote in Kansas a Win For Democrats – and May Be a Warning for Republicans.” Yahoo News: “Kansas abortion vote rocks U.S. midterms outlook.”
The problem with this kind of hyped reporting was that it was false. Nothing like what was described happened in Kansas. In fact, the referendum was what the Supreme Court intended and should have surprised no one.
The Dobbs decision in June did not outlaw abortion in the United States. It did not even rule on the merits of abortion. It merely delegated the issue of abortion to the individual states, wrestling it from the federal government, where it remained for 50 years after Roe.
The Court’s reasoning was a victory for states’ rights. It pointed out that the Tenth Amendment expressly authorized the states, as laboratories of democracy, to pass laws for most matters that impact people and govern how they wanted to exist: birth, education, crime, marriage, divorce, and death. Abortion, as a consequence, should be a state matter and be left out of federal mandates. Nothing would please the 5-4 majority in Dobbs if the 50 states could craft 50 different standards of what constitutes legal conduct for an abortion.
On Tuesday, Kansans went to the polls to do what the Supreme Court wanted them to do: vote on how the citizens of Kansas choose to live with each other. In truth, the Kansas vote represents a resounding victory for the Supreme Court.
While Kansans voted not to enshrine abortion language into their constitution, the media failed to report that Kansas already has some of the most stringent abortion restrictions, all of which will remain on the books. In Kansas, tax dollars cannot be used for abortions. Sex selections are banned. Obamacare medical exchanges cannot offer abortions. Patients must view an ultrasound image showing a heartbeat [this restriction casts doubt on a woman’s decision to undergo an abortion]. Patients who are not yet 18 must have permission from a parent.
The media also ignored to note that the amendment vote did not expand abortion rights. Even if the amendment had passed, it would not have automatically extended restrictions. According to the Dobbs decision, limiting abortions or expanding abortion rights is a matter for the Kansas legislature, which consists of a 125-member House of Representatives and a 40-member Senate. Nothing prevents those two bodies from marking up an abortion bill when it convenes on the second Monday in January for an annual session or any time before they generally adjourn in early May.
If the Kansas legislature tried to limit abortions, and if it was defeated in a floor vote or vetoed by the governor, then the media could legitimately claim a victory for the pro-choice movement. Or, if the legislature passed an expanded abortion rights bill that the governor signed into law, that too would have been a victory. Neither of these occurred in Kansas this week.
But even if such a thing were to happen, it should be of no surprise to anyone. Some states, like Texas and Mississippi, have strong anti-abortion laws; others, like California and New York, have permissive pro-choice laws. The Dobbs construct expects, indeed, demands such a hodge-podge mesh of abortion rules.
The media has it partially correct as to the political impact on the midterms. Our TIPP poll shows that Democrats, sometimes by a 2:1 margin, favor abortion rights. The frenzied coverage of the so-called victory for pro-choice groups in Kansas will likely energize the Left in an otherwise difficult political environment.
But it is too early to write off a red wave. Most Americans are not single-issue voters. The Left is facing numerous headwinds – inflation, an oncoming recession, the Ukraine war, escalation with China over Taiwan, supply chain problems, the open borders, court defeats that are crippling policy, and a depressed coalition – that won’t be overcome by abortion.
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