(LifeSiteNews) – As pro-lifers work to assess the failure of a pro-life ballot initiative in Kansas, one of the factors identified so far is widespread misinformation about pro-life laws forcing mothers to die from pregnancy complications.
The “Value Them Both” Amendment would not have prohibited any abortions, but rather clarified that the Kansas Constitution “does not require government funding of abortion and does not create or secure a right to abortion,” and therefore abortion policy is the purview of “the people, through their elected state representatives and state senators.” It was meant to correct a 2019 ruling by the Kansas Supreme Court, which asserted that the state constitution’s guarantee of “equal and inalienable natural rights” encompasses “a woman’s right to make decisions about her body, including the decision whether to continue her pregnancy.”
On Tuesday, however, 908,745 Kansans turned out to vote on the amendment and rejected it 59% to 41%. Pro-abortion voices quickly declared the outcome a sound rejection of the pro-life cause and an omen of an impending national backlash to the June overturn of Roe v. Wade.
Pro-lifers responded by citing major spending against the amendment, arguing that the wording of the referendum was potentially unclear, and noting that Kansas is not as conservative as sometimes assumed. They also took the results as a reminder of the need to continually evaluate the movement’s strategies and continue working to change hearts and minds, and stressed that abortion being subject to the democratic process is still vastly preferable to the status quo under Roe.
“I think ultimately it came down to chaos, confusion, and lies ruling the day,” Mallory Carroll, vice president of communications for Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, told Catholic News Agency Thursday. “The pro-abortion movement was very successful at claiming that this vote was going to be a vote to stop all abortion in Kansas and put women’s lives at risk.”
“A lot of people worked really hard, we contacted a lot of voters, but the message that the pro-abortion movement was pushing, that this was going to lead to women literally dying, was more effective and salient,” she continued. “It really raises the stakes for upcoming elections and underscores how important it is that, both as a pro-life movement and individual pro-life candidates, need to be really clear about what it is that we stand for.”
The specter of women dying in childbirth due to being denied abortions is one of abortion activists’ most potent talking points, despite being both medically and legally inaccurate.
Dr. Anthony Levatino, an OB/GYN who performed more than 1,200 abortions over the course of his 40-year career, but left the industry and converted to the pro-life cause following the death of his daughter, says he “saved hundreds of women from life-threatening pregnancies, and I did that by…ending their pregnancy by delivery, either induction of labor or Caesarean section. You never need late-term abortion to save a woman’s life.”
In fact, he explains that abortion is typically the worst thing that could be done for a woman in an emergency, as it takes 48-72 hours to dilate the cervix in order to remove a developed child. “If we waited 2-3 days to get her cervix prepared, she never would have made it,” Levatino says. While removal of a child to save the mother’s life often results in the death of that child, it is an unintended consequence rather than a deliberate result, and in such cases at least “they all had a chance.”
Dr. William Lile, an OB/GYN and pro-life public speaker who maintains the ProLifeDoc website, agrees.
“Are there reasons that we have to deliver a baby early sometimes? Yes, moms can have conditions of preeclampsia, severe eclampsia, other issues, and we have to deliver the babies,” he explains. “But that 24, 25, 26-week baby goes to our neonatal intensive care nursery and does great,” rather than being killed. “Taking the life of the baby does not preserve or protect the life of the mom, it just takes the life of the baby,” Lile says.
Losing a baby in such circumstances does not constitute an abortion, as no lethal force is directly applied to the baby to intentionally kill him or her. Further, the vast majority of pro-life bills to be proposed over the the years rule out the possibility even more conclusively by expressly making an exception for cases of physical danger to the mother. According to the pro-life Charlotte Lozier Institute, all 23 states which currently have “one or more strong laws to protect life,” none prevent “medical treatment to save [the] life of [the] pregnant woman.”
Writing at The Federalist, Catholic University of America professor and prominent pro-life researcher Michael New offered additional explanation for the Kansas setback, and reasons for pro-lifers not to despair.
“Since the reversal of Roe, corporate media coverage of sanctity of life issues has become even more partisan and more biased,” he wrote, noting that by contrast, “[c]orporate media coverage of the outstanding work of pregnancy help centers post-Dobbs has been virtually non-existent.”
“Since the Dobbs decision, numerous state-level laws have taken effect protecting thousands of preborn children,” New added. “Furthermore, a recent report by the Guttmacher Institute found that in 11 states where pro-life laws were in effect, 43 abortion facilities were no longer performing abortions. Overall, Guttmacher predicts that protective pro-life laws will eventually be in effect in 26 states,” giving pro-lifers “great opportunities.”