‘Victory Will Be Ours’: Pro-lifers Shouldn’t Despair Over Kansas ‘Value Them Both’ Defeat
Although a number of peculiar circumstances led to a pro-life voter referendum failing in Kansas on Tuesday, pro-life advocates should remain engaged in the political fight, confident of their ultimate victory, a scholar said the day after the vote.
With 95% of the vote counted, the “Value Them Both” amendment lost by 59% to 41%. The provision, known as Amendment 2, would have reversed a 2019 opinion from the Kansas Supreme Court that claimed the state constitution’s clause protecting the right to life actually conferred a right to abortion.
“Unfortunately, there was a lot of money that came in from out of state. And a lot of confusion was created in people’s minds about what really was being voted on and what it really meant,” Rep. Ron Estes (R-Kan.) told guest host Joseph Backholm on “Washington Watch” Wednesday.
Many faulted the amendment’s convoluted wording for its defeat. “There probably was some wording, in terms of the way the constitutional amendment was spelled out, which created some of that confusion,” Estes confessed. Michael New, a professor of political science and social research at the Catholic University of America and a scholar at the Charlotte Lozier Institute, agreed. “It wasn’t really clear what the implications of this amendment were,” he told Backholm later in the program. “Many thought that would result in a statewide abortion ban, which is not the case. But that’s the messaging the other side used to great effect.”
“We need to make sure that we’re clear in our message and make sure that we correct those erroneous comments that are out there and, in some cases, distortions or even outright lies,” Estes stated.
One of those distortions came from President Joe Biden on Wednesday afternoon. “Voters of Kansas defeated a ballot initiative to remove the right to choose an abortion from the Kansas constitution,” Biden told the first meeting of the Task Force on Reproductive Healthcare Access Wednesday. “It’s in the Kansas constitution. They’re trying to strike it and eliminate it from the Kansas constitution."
“There really is no right to an abortion in the Kansas State constitution. It was invented by an activist judiciary,” New clarified.
Aside from general confusion, money played a role in the Kansas defeat, New said. “There’s a lot of research on direct democracy that shows that the side that spends the most money usually wins,” he told Backholm. The Value Them Both Association spent $5.4 million while the group opposed to the initiative, which called itself “Kansans for Constitutional Freedom,” spent $5.8 million by July 18, according to local media. New explained that, by election day, the pro-abortion side had outspent the pro-life campaign by “more than $1 million.”
A 2018 study found that, in “a solid two-thirds of [Michigan state ballot referendum] elections” held in the 2010s, “the winning side spent the most money.” These findings “suggest that money is becoming more effective” in swaying voters’ views. They noted that many earlier studies had found that “spending against a proposal was more effective than spending in favor of a proposal. These results have led some scholars to speculate that there was a built-in advantage to a ‘no’ vote on ballot proposals, in part because voters would vote for the status quo rather than for any change about which they were unclear.”
The donors to each side could hardly have offered a greater contrast when it came to their self-interest. Affiliates of the nation’s largest abortion provider, Planned Parenthood, gave $1.49 million to become the “no” campaign’s top donor. Abortion lobbyist groups NARAL Pro-Choice America and the Center for Reproductive Rights donated nearly a quarter of a million dollars to the effort. The largest individual donor to Kansans for Constitutional Freedom was the Sixteen Thirty Fund, a left-leaning “‘dark money’ group that does not disclose its donors.” The secretive group put $1.38 million toward defeating the pro-life amendment, reported Miranda Moore of The Wichita Beacon. On the other hand, “Catholic churches, conferences, and affiliated organizations funded nearly two-thirds of the $5.4 million spent by the Value Them Both campaign in 2022 and gave the campaign nearly three-fourths of all the money it raised this year.”
New said his research discovered a few conditions that would allow pro-life reforms to succeed at the ballot box. “First is [what] we have proposed [must] be incremental, clear, and easy to understand, and can’t be distorted.” The election must also take place in a conservative state. “The second condition held,” he believed, “but the first one really didn’t.”
Those who wish to increase protections for unborn children should not let the Kansas vote convince them to throw in the towel. “We are not promised an easy-glide path to victory after Dobbs. We’re going to have to take this to the states, and we’re even going to run into resistance, even in conservative states,” New explained.
“We just need to be persistent and always confident. In the end, victory will be ours.”
Ben Johnson is senior reporter and editor at The Washington Stand.