Kansans must act now to prevent state from becoming another Texas. Turn fear, rage and frustration into power.
It’s amazing what state legislatures can accomplish without the public knowing until the damage is already done. Every time a restrictive, punitive bill like the Texas abortion ban passes somewhere in the United States, engaged citizens tweet their outrage, donate to Planned Parenthood and organize marches.
But while this public outrage is uncomfortable for legislators, more often than not, it has little impact on the policy that’s already passed.
Kansans know it is better when a woman’s private decisions are made with her family, her faith and her physician, not politicians in Topeka. As the leader of the Senate Democrats, it’s easy for me to ask Kansans to elect more Democrats to the Kansas Legislature in order to prevent laws like the Texas ban from passing in our state.
But as someone who’s been a member of both parties, I know that identity and ideological values aren’t always neat and tidy, and that like many Americans, Kansans are weary of promises made by politicians seeking elected office.
Rather than putting their faith in the promises of legislators, Kansans have the opportunity to vote on abortion as a standalone issue, in the form of a constitutional amendment appearing on our August 2022 ballot. How we vote on that question will determine whether we’ll be the next Texas.
The constitutional amendment was crafted in response to a 2019 Kansas Supreme Court ruling that found a right to abortion in our state’s constitution, and requires the Legislature to prove a compelling state interest in its restriction of this safe, common medical procedure. Our state has met and will continue to meet this standard to keep Kansas women safe as they make personal health care decisions.
If the constitutional amendment passes, however, the Legislature could force women who are raped, are victims of incest or face life-threating complications to continue pregnancies. Politicians in Topeka would follow Texas’s lead in banning abortions at six weeks — before most women know they are pregnant — and allowing neighbors to sue neighbors they suspect have ended a pregnancy.
In fact, the Legislature will have the power to ban abortion outright, to criminalize miscarriages, redefine contraception and make its use illegal. Kansas won’t be the next Texas; it’ll be much, much worse.
I share this not to cause despair or to stoke outrage. I share this because Kansans deserve to know the truth about what politicians and special interest groups intend to do to our rights. Individual Kansans are the only ones standing in the way of these potentially devastating outcomes.
We each have one vote, but our voting power increases with every friend, family member and neighbor we educate and mobilize around this amendment. Now is the time to have those conversations. Now is the time to march, tweet, donate to organizations on the ground.
Now is the time to identify opportunities to turn our fear, rage and frustration into power. Seize this moment. If we wait until next August, our legislators won’t hear us. They’ll be busy filing their own six-week abortion ban.
Democratic Kansas Senate Minority Leader Dinah Sykes, of Lenexa, represents District 21.