While the normal and expected initial reaction to hearing about any attempt at personhood legislation should be met with a certain amount of alarm by women and reproductive rights supporters, those of us on the ground fighting such attempts must push past the initial alarm, stop and partake in some careful analysis. This is especially important in Kansas, where the assaults are numerous and resources are thin. Best practice is to stop, breathe, take stock and prioritize. This step of course follows the part where I’ve packed my tornado shelter full with tampons, maxi pads, oral contraception, condoms and whatever other items associated with women’s reproductive capacities that I believe might be legislatively stripped from me next.
When the news of Kansas personhood broke on Friday and I was scrambling around in tornado shelter mode, answering press calls and cursing a lot, I knew that this was to be taken seriously. This is Kansas and in sessions past, especially since last session, under the leadership of Governor Brownback, the anti-choice crowd has pretty much gotten anything and everything on their legislative plate that they could possibly want. They have gone back for seconds, even thirds… their gluttonous appetite for eliminating reproductive choice and access simply cannot be suppressed.
Even when the top dogs in leadership have attempted to restrain them, they have found a way to be fed by their respective legislative abortion kitchen compatriots. Last session, the abortion insurance ban was pushed through in conference committee in violation of the joint rules stating that language must have passed at least one chamber. Neither chamber had a hearing on the insurance ban of abortion.
Senator David Haley had this to say about the rules violation:
Roe has collapsed and Texas is in chaos.
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MR. PRESIDENT: I vote “NO” on the conference committee report to HB 2075,
time-honored rules of the Kansas Legislature; specifically Joint Rule 3, Section F, of the Joint Rules of the House and Senate to, in this instance, insert new language (on abortion based insurance policy riders) which has never passed either chamber is foul…..and cheats our honor. Sure, twenty-one of us can make a new rule here as we go along. But the eyes and ears of all law-abiding Kansans are watching and listening. Perverting the rules of the Senate to subsidize any political agenda or issue cheapens the respect that each of us should demand of this body and this process. A “YES” vote on this measure dims the light in the chamber; tarnishes the gild.
In spite of Senator Haley’s poignant words, it was brought to the House floor at 4:00 in the morning. Evidently, this legislative abortion kitchen serves its customers 24 hours, like Denny’s. How would you like your eggs? Fertilized of course, with some toast on the side… please?
So, back to Kansas personhood. After the pacing and cursing, I began reading what was being reported in the press and imagine my surprise when I read this in the Kansas City Star:
Mary Kay Culp, executive director of Kansans for Life, said she’s afraid of pushing the issue to the U.S. Supreme Court. She feared the court could reaffirm the legality of abortion given its current makeup. Culp said abortion foes already have won a number of legislative victories that she thinks are effective and will ultimately be upheld in court.
“Therefore, we do not and cannot recommend a Kansas Personhood Initiative, nor a similar provision known as the Heartbeat Bill, nor do we consider support or opposition of these initiatives as an indication that an individual or a candidate is pro-life,” Culp said in a statement issued late Friday.
What we had been hearing about the strategic divide in the anti-choice camp is most certainly true and this quote confirms the extent of that divide. Kansans for Life calls the shots in Kansas abortion politics. We have a plethora of groups eager to strip away the right to legal and safe abortion and even birth control, Operation Rescue, The Catholic Conference, Kansas Coalition for Life, Mark Holick with the Spirit One Church, Concerned and Women for America are some of the groups that exist to harass women either legislatively or through grassroots terroristic actions.
However, Kansans for Life doles out the cash and many in the statehouse value an endorsement from Kansans for Life. So, for this group to come out and say, “This one’s a freebee, no negative points will be assigned, you will not receive harassing phone calls, go ahead and vote Nea and we’ll just look the other way.” Well, that is a very big deal.
See, Kansans for Life knows that its strategy has been effective for them thus far. Kansans for Life has had their plate filled up whenever they have rung the supper bell. They may have seen what went down with personhood in Mississippi, and it has caused uncertainty. They are afraid that the outrage over the extreme nature of this legislation will turn some people off and they might not be fed to their liking.
Beyond that analysis, a ballot initiative requires an approval of a two-thirds majority from both chambers. They may have those votes in the House, but the Senate has moderate, thinking Republicans. That body has successfully sustained the vetoes of former Democratic Governors Kathleen Sebellius and Mark Parkinson in legislative sessions past.
Those sustaining Democrats and moderate Republicans are representative of the values of most Kansans. They are the same Kansans that elected Kathleen Sebellius twice and booted Attorney General Phil Kline out after one term of his abortion witch-hunt.
As Robin Marty reported, this vote would take place during the primaries. Primaries are fertile ground for the conservative element of the Republican Party. Many conservative Republcian gains in electing extremists have been made here. The conservatives are hoping for the primary edge. Almost every moderate Republican has a conservative primary challenger. Conservatives have great hopes of overtaking the Senate, providing them with full reign in both chambers and the Governor’s office.
Placing a personhood initiative on the August ballot adds a level of uncertainty to this primary process. Will the voters come out in droves to vote Yea or will the voters come out in droves to vote Nea? That is a gamble that the conservative wing of the party may not be willing to make, in spite of all of the excitement that taking away birth control and eliminating abortion would bring.
The personhood pushers do have one last trick under their sleeve. They have put forth the following explainer for their bill:
A vote against this proposition would not amend the constitution, in which case the current federally mandated legal status of preborn humans would remain that of a class of human beings that can intentionally be killed.
Read: Vote for this bill or you will be a supporter of killing people.
Now that ought to serve as an appeal of reason to the moderates, shouldn’t it?