Kansans will vote on a constitutional amendment known as Value Them Both on August 2 to determine whether there should be any regulation on abortion. Opponents imply that Value Them Both imposes a ban on abortion, but that is not true. If the amendment passes, it will restore control over abortion regulation to the Kansas Legislature and governor.
In 2019, the Kansas Supreme Court — in the Hodes & Nauser v. State of Kansas decision — established a constitutional right to an abortion in Kansas, effectively overturning and outlawing all restrictions. Value Them Both facilitates reinstatement of regulations, including a 2015 law that outlawed certain late-term procedures except in the case of danger to the life of the mother. Other regulations would include requiring inspections and sanitation standards for abortion clinics that were implemented in the wake of shocking conditions found at a Kansas City clinic in 2004 and requiring notarized written consent of the minor and both parents or the legal guardian of the minor before an abortion can be performed on minors.
Text of the amendment is clearer than opponents claim
Opponents of the amendment have painted it as “a government mandate that could ban all abortions with no exceptions, even rape, and incest,” the Kansas City Star reported Alan Fearey, a Wichita doctor, saying in an ad. The campaign is being run by Kansans for Constitutional Freedom, a political action committee that operates from the Overland Park Planned Parenthood office.
Opponents have also tried to paint it as implementing the model legislation proposed on June 15 by the National Right to Life Committee. That model legislation — if adopted — would outlaw all abortion except in the case of the life of the mother.
However, that is not at all what the text of the Value Them Both amendment actually says.
The actual text reads: “Because Kansans value both women and children, the constitution of the state of Kansas does not require government funding of abortion and does not create or secure a right to abortion. To the extent permitted by the constitution of the United States, the people, through their elected state representatives and state senators, may pass laws regarding abortion, including, but not limited to, laws that account for circumstances of pregnancy resulting from rape or incest, or circumstances of necessity to save the life of the mother.”
The amendment would not create any new restrictions but rather allow the legislature to do so — and essentially restore the laws currently on the books.
Value Them Both would give Kansans a say in the debate
Currently, there is no actual debate over abortion in Kansas — whatever individual residents or legislators may think about the issue is irrelevant in the wake of Hodes and simply restoring that opportunity, said Danielle Underwood, communications director for Kansans for Life, is the only goal of the amendment.
“All the Value Them Both amendment does is it restores our state constitution to the way it was before that 2019 state court ruling,” she said in a recent phone interview. “It returns power to the people to be able to have a voice in the discussion about abortion and how it should be limited in our state through our elected officials.”
Underwood said National Right to Life is not speaking for Kansas with their model legislation, and any discussion of further restrictions is moot unless this amendment passes.
“This has nothing to do with any kind of further legislation,” she said. “Before the people of Kansas can even reclaim their rights to be able to have a say in the discussion about the limitations and the regulations placed on abortion in our state, we have to correct the state court decision that created this unlimited right to abortion.”
While there are currently about 20 so-called “pro-life” laws on the books in Kansas, under Hodes, none of them can be defended in court — they will be presumed to be invalid.
“We had reduced the abortion rate in our state by almost 50% over that time period,” Underwood said. “Since that state court ruling, we’ve seen a 13% overall increase in the annual number of abortions, which is the highest in almost 25 years.”
Poll numbers show American support restrictions
Underwood noted that while an Associated Press poll found that most Americans believe abortion should be legal during the first trimester, a whopping 92% support some restrictions, and fully 80% of Americans believe abortion should be illegal in most or all cases (26% and 54% respectively) in the third trimester. The poll found only 8% believe abortion should be allowed in the last three months of a pregnancy for any reason at any time.