In the aftermath of the high court decisions stripping people of privacy and personal rights, I have seen on Facebook where some of my friends plan to wear black on July 4. Some will fly the American flag upside down. And some will celebrate with cookouts and fireworks as always. I haven’t decided what I will do yet. Maybe I will enjoy the explosion of blossoms after recent rains. Flowers do a great job of mimicking those fleeting displays, without all the noise. Or maybe just sharing these musings will be my way of observing the 4th of July, 2022.
Thomas Paine wrote in 1776, “These are the times that try men’s souls.” We have more of those times this year, 246 years after the Declaration of Independence. In Kansas, the day of reckoning fast approaches. It’s interesting to me to note that the original document, though given the date of July 4, 1776, was not fully signed by our founders until August 2, 1776. August 2, 2022 is a very important day for Kansas voters. It’s our primary election day. But not only that, in their infinite wisdom (NOT!) the legislature slated a vote for an amendment on the Kansas constitution on primary day.
This is a problem because voter turnout is typically low for such elections. If you are an independent voter, you usually have no reason whatsoever to go. But this year, even independent voters have the right to vote on the proposed amendment. Use that right and cast your vote, even if it’s the only thing on the ballot you have a say in.
The amendment itself removes a woman’s constitutional right to an abortion and leaves it up to our “esteemed” legislature to decide when and if abortion as health care is warranted. That is a problem right there. These people are not necessarily doctors. Few of them are medically trained. Though some folks, notably the director of Family Life Services in a neighboring town, are confident that the legislature will not ban abortions for cases of rape, incest or ectopic pregnancy, I don’t share that confidence. I don’t trust politicians. Most of them no longer listen to the people they serve. (Kuddos to those who are still trying!)
A very concise letter to the editor of our local newspaper had the best summary of voting on this amendment that I have seen.
- If you are pro-choice, Vote No.
- If you are pro-life but want some exceptions in the rule for cases of rape, incest, and health of the mother, Vote No.
- If you are pro-life and want zero abortions, zero exceptions, then you Vote Yes.
Where do I stand in those three groups? I think many of us lean toward the middle, and I am one of those. It is heartbreaking when a pregnancy becomes problematic, even more so when a mother has to make the insane choice about whether to end her pregnancy. We certainly don’t need to open the doors to prosecute women who have just lived through a personal crisis. Or to have investigators show up at the door of someone who miscarried, suspicious about a pre-meditated ending of the life of the unborn.
In a meeting I attended in early June, an attorney familiar with the Kansas constitution pointed out that since statehood in 1861, there have been 98 amendments passed by the people. This is one of a very few, perhaps the only one, that would REMOVE rights previously established by the constitution. Think carefully about this amendment.
Complicating the issue is the fact that abortions are already highly regulated in the state, so essentially the amendment is not necessary. Already, abortions must be performed by a licensed physician. They are prohibited after 22 weeks, except in cases of life or health endangerment. Late-term abortions, and abortions based on gender selection are absolutely prohibited. Private insurance coverage is limited to cases of life endangerment. Public funding for abortion is available only in cases of life endangerment, rape, or incest. Patients must undergo an ultrasound before a procedure. There is a 24 hour waiting period after state-directed counseling prior to a procedure. Parental consent is required for minors seeking an abortion.
Just as no two people are alike, there are no two pregnancies alike either. In my own immediate family there are six women, from my mother, to her three daughters (of which I am one) and my two daughters. Though all six of us bore children, four of us experienced failed pregnancies. That is 67%. For us, those pregnancies were wanted, the babies anticipated, and their natural demise was tragic. If abortion becomes illegal—zero exceptions—the grief we felt at our losses could be compounded exponentially in future miscarriages by investigating detectives and charges of murder.
If you have never experienced a failed pregnancy, count your lucky stars. Current statistics on failed pregnancies (miscarriages and stillbirths) indicate that 20% of conceptions in North America fail naturally. For those families who eagerly anticipated a bright bubbly baby, and have to go home to an empty nursery, the pain is already too much to bear. It is unconscionable to add the possibility of prosecution for the failure on top of it all.
Given current trends to thwart environmental protections in favor of big corporations, the incidence of failed pregnancies is likely to explode. Naomi Klein states in her book This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs the Climate, “For all the talk about the right to life and the rights of the unborn, our culture pays precious little attention to the particular vulnerabilities of children, let alone developing life. Risk assessments most often focus on effects to adults.”
She quotes biologist Sandra Steingraber who has studied the issue. Steingraber: “Entire regulatory systems are premised on the assumption that all members of the population basically act, biologically, like middle-aged men.” [5’7”, 157# white men at that].
Klein puts it into perspective: “More than three quarters of the mass-produced chemicals in the United States have never been tested for their impacts on fetuses or children. That means they are being released in the environment with no consideration for how they will impact those who weigh, say twenty pounds, like your average one-year-old girl, let alone a half-pound, like a nineteen-week fetus.”
And yet, it’s becoming clear that proximity to environmental degradation, including fracking, increases low birth weight by 50%, and the chances of a low Apgar score double at birth. Communities near refineries or massive tar sands extraction are seeing the normal miscarriage rate double.
The recent high court ruling against the EPA’s ability to regulate emissions from power plants almost certainly will increase environmental hazards. Mutations of growing fetuses, viability at birth, and the incidence of miscarriage will increase. Be prepared.
With a nod to Thomas Paine, These are the times that try a woman’s soul, as well as all who value constitutional freedom.
And in Kansas, the choice is clear. We must keep the option of abortion by trained medical personnel open and legal.
Vote No on the constitutional amendment August 2.