Roe v Wade was overturned in June and that ruling sent the decision on whether or not to allow abortions back to the states. Missouri was the first state to totally ban abortion (Missouri’s law was actually passed in 2019; there was an automatic trigger that kicked in after the decision). Kansas was the first state to extend a choice to the voters; they asked whether or not to amend the state constitution which currently has a provision allowing abortion.
Expectations were that conservative Kansas would eliminate the right to abortion, but the response was a solid “No” to eliminating the abortion provision. Why was the bill so soundly defeated in Kansas? The polls prior to the vote indicated that the bill had a good chance. Still, the results are not so surprising once you dig under the covers.
Furthermore, the situation remains exactly what I said earlier: the Supreme Court has backed away from the issue now allowing voters to decide the issue instead. Despite the flailing of many federal officials, the federal government is no longer part of the equation; it is strictly a state issue. We have a more democratic process now, one which permits us to follow the will of each state’s citizens. Well, citizens decided in Kansas. It is a disappointing result for those of us supporting life, but it is worth examining the vote to understand where the country stands on the issue and what it portends.
Not a Bellweather
First, let’s make clear this is not a bellwether indicating the abortion issue has motivated Democrats to come out in record numbers and reverse bleak Democrat fortunes ahead of the 2022 mid-terms. This referendum was solidly defeated, but who defeated it? Far more Republicans than Democrats voted on Tuesday. Republican primary voters outnumbered Democrats by almost 2 to 1 Tuesday (the exact ratio was 1.8 Republicans for every Democrat). Pew Research indicates that registered Kansas Republicans outnumber Democrats 46% to 31%, a 1.5 to 1 ratio, so, Republicans were actually over-represented this past Tuesday. There was no blue wave in the red state of Kansas.
Approximately 922,000 voted on the referendum. Here is how that electorate breaks down:
- 467,000 voted as Republicans (i.e. they voted in the Republican Senator and Governor primaries).
- 261,000 voted as Democrats (i.e. voted in the Democrat primaries).
- 194,000 voted in neither primary, but voted on the referendum (there are likely significant numbers from both parties).
Nearly 21% voted only on the referendum, so obviously it was an issue that mattered, mattered far more than who represented Kansas in the U.S. Senate or the governor’s office. The issue also clearly brought new people to the polls; far more voted than in any previous Kansas primary, more than double the number for the mid-term primary four years earlier:
But here is the most meaningful result of all: even with Democrats overwhelmingly voting “No”, the bill does not fail without a substantial number of Republicans. There were something like 300,000 “No” votes coming from other than Democrat primary voters. If 80% or more of Republicans primary voters said “Yes”, they would have swamped the boat and the amendment would have passed. I break down the numbers below.
The public is clearly telling us what they think. The problem is that we are either not listening or skewing the results to further a cause. As I noted a couple months ago, most Americans are in the middle on the issue. In fact, there are many folks from both parties in the middle. Most do not want a total ban on abortions; although, they also do not want unlimited abortion on demand.
Alternatively, we could also lump the two groups in the middle and say the majority of Americans (63%) favor abortion with restrictions:
- 25%: Abortions should have no limits or very few limits.
- 63%: Abortions should be legal with limits.
- 10%: Abortions should be illegal in virtually all instances.
It is hard to change the status quo when 63% occupy that middle position. If the Kansas bill had instead proposed allowing abortions on demand, all the way to nine months, it would have been soundly defeated as well. Still, the Kansas legislature believed Kansans would vote differently on this bill. Polling predicted the vote to be close; yet, voters wanted to keep the status quo and move slowly towards tightening abortion restrictions. One might think that Kansans would be more open to such tightening than the nation as a whole, but apparently they are not that much different than the rest of the country.
Perhaps Kansas legislators should have looked at the following Pew Research poll which shows both parties have a large number of dissenters on this issue. This poll indicates in the average state at least 70% of Democrats and 35% of Republicans would vote “No” to new limitations on abortion. When we try to change the status quo and move towards one direction or other on the abortion issue, the large group in the middle, not those strictly for or against, will limit change.
Let’s use these numbers as a starting point to recreate Tuesday’s vote totals.
First, there appear to be about 7% of Democrats who are pro-life and would almost surely have voted “Yes”. Another 22% of Democrats don’t agree with either party on the issue. These folks see themselves in the middle: restrict abortion, but still allow it in certain instances. These folks in the middle would tilt strongly against a state ban; that’s too much to one side for them. Let’s estimate that just one in twenty of these folks would vote “Yes” and the rest vote “No”. That gets us to an estimate of 92% of Democrats likely to vote “No”. I doubt the Democrat percentage is much lower given the importance of abortion to the overall Democrat agenda.
Next, 12% of Republicans agree with Democrats; these are pro-choice Republicans who would almost surely would vote “No”. Another 23% of Republicans don’t agree with either party. Again, most of these folks are in the middle on the issue; probably nineteen in twenty see a state ban as a bridge too far. That gets us to an estimate of 34% of Republicans likely to vote “No”.
We can’t determine party affiliation for those not voting in either primary. Let’s assume they voted in similar percentages to the population as a whole. All these estimates yield the following result:
- 240,000 Democrats voted “No” (92% of 261,000 Democrats)
- 159,000 Republicans voted “No” (34% of 467,000 Republicans)
- 114,000 non-affiliated voted “No” (59% of 194,000 unaffiliated)
This estimate accounts for 513,000 “No” votes, about 31,000 votes under the actual total. The Democrat vote can’t be much higher, so let’s boost the estimates for Republican and non-affiliated voters; raise each group’s percentage about 5% and we match the actual results.
Conclusion: more than 180,000 Republicans (39% of all Republican voters), voted “No” to ending abortion in Kansas. With only 25% of Republicans voting “No”, it’s a close vote. With only 20% of Republicans voting “No”, the bill is adopted. Democrat voters did not win this; the Republican voters defied their party and sent the bill to defeat.
I don’t look to Vox too often for numbers or analysis, but they had the following interesting comment:
The referendum in particular seems to have brought out women, who are considered to be most affected by abortion laws. As Tom Bonier, CEO of a Democratic data firm TargetSmart, pointed out, the share of new Kansas registrants who were women skyrocketed after news of US Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision.
They don’t provide the actual numbers registered, but they show the female percentage increased immediately after the Dobbs decision. These additional female voters probably do account for many votes, but I wouldn’t be certain all are voting “No”. This decision was a motivator for pro-life folks as well, many of whom are also women. I also wouldn’t be certain this is a great boon to Democrats as we see that many of the “No” votes came from Republicans. Democratic turnout was also not more than what would be expected from voter registration. Finally, do we even know all these newly registered women, angry at the system, even voted in the election? Maybe their ire burned out quickly.
What Does All This Tell Us?
We have to acknowledge the supporters at either end of the abortion debate are not so impactful. They may get more attention than the rest, but those in the middle drive the change on this issue. I wish more people would recognize the awful nature of abortion, but we just aren’t there yet.
Critics often say those of us at one end of the debate are “extremists”, but I don’t see my position as extreme. Rush Limbaugh used to like to quote from that book “Great Moderates in History”. It is a short book. I see my own staunch pro-life position as principled and even though relatively few are aligned with us, more may follow eventually.
What is extreme is saying: “abortion is a health care issue” or is a “protection of women’s rights”. It is not health care for the child, the child they never acknowledge, has any rights whatsoever. Abortion is about convenience, the convenience of dispensing with others who make our lives harder, the convenience of eliminating the consequences of not-so-good behavior, especially promiscuous sexual behavior.
The US position compared to the rest of the world is extreme as well. Nearly 60 countries already outlaw abortions, a few with exceptions only for the life of the mother. Even after Roe v Wade was voided, the US is one of the seven least restrictive countries with regard to abortion.
The Washington Post: Is The United States One Of Seven Countries That ‘Allow Elective Abortions After 20 Weeks Of Pregnancy?’ There are 59 countries that allow abortion “without restriction as to reason,” or “elective,” or “abortion on demand.” These are countries where the letter of the federal law does not impose specific eligibility requirements for women. The other 139 countries “require some reason to obtain an abortion, ranging from most restrictive (to save the life of the mother or completely prohibited) to least restrictive (socioeconomic grounds) with various reasons in between (e.g., physical health, mental health),” the report says. Only seven of the 59 countries allow elective abortions after 20 weeks, the group found: Canada, China, Netherlands, North Korea, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam.
We join paragons of liberty and freedom like China, North Korea, and Vietnam at the far end of the spectrum. How wonderful. Eight US states (AK, CO, NH, NJ, NY, NM, OR, VT) and DC allow abortions right up to nine months. How can such a decision be good for the mother? How can that considered moral by anyone? More than 63 million children have been aborted in the US since 1973. I call that a holocaust. Never again came again too soon.
The carnage from abortion is heartbreaking; the Kansas vote is disappointing, but we should accept facts as they are. The goal is to change hearts and minds–through persuasion, not as was done to the nation by forcing an undemocratic decision like Roe v. Wade down our throats. We do not use the same dubious methods used by the pro-choice crowd the last 50 years. We have much persuading to do obviously, but it starts with sharing the facts about the awful truth. Abortion is not about health care. It is not what is best for women, for families, or for our society as a whole.
Roe v Wade was the status quo for so long. We could do little to change the laws or perceptions until it was overturned. It was just accepted as the way things should be. The public’s opinion changed little over time.
Two years after the court’s decision, 54 percent of U.S. adults said they supported abortion under certain circumstances and another 21 percent said abortion always should be legal, according to Gallup polling from 1975, while 22 percent of Americans said it should be illegal.
By 2018, Gallup pollsters found little change, with 50 percent of Americans supporting abortion under certain conditions, another 29 percent of respondents supporting abortion no matter what and 18 percent of respondents saying it should be against the law, said Lydia Saad, senior editor at Gallup.
Now, we have a new status quo. The restrictive limitations of Roe v Wade have been removed. Some states have already rolled back abortion “protections”. More will in the future. More votes will be held in other states, perhaps more carefully crafted votes than the Kansas vote. As states grapple with the options available to them and their new responsibility to consider the options carefully, the morality of abortion will be debated openly once again. The truth will have more opportunities to be heard as the issue is highlighted. The new status quo will have a chance to take hold and strengthen. More people will come to realize abortion is not so vital after all. Please understand what we are up against, but keep the faith and keep spreading the truth.
As a board-certified obstetrician and gynecologic surgeon, I can tell you that the research available about abortion now far surpasses what was available when Roe v. Wade was ruled in 1973.
In 1973, technology was not capable of keeping a child alive outside of the womb at 21 or 22 weeks as it is today, and 28 weeks gestation was considered the youngest viable gestational age. The medical treatments women now have access to for their unborn babies are notably advanced. Life-saving fetal surgery can be performed as early as 19 weeks gestation.
I’m the National Medical Director and a board member for Save the Storks, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to equipping, educating, and training pregnancy resource centers and churches across the U.S. to empower women to choose life—the healthiest decision not only for their unborn babies but also for themselves. I have studied the research of the short- and long-term harmful effects of abortion, treated tens of thousands of female patients, and know that the overturn of Roe v. Wade is a huge win for the health and lives of women and children.
A Marist poll conducted in 2021 revealed that 76% of Americans interviewed opposed abortion on demand and opted to limit abortion to the first three months of pregnancy.
Update – December 2022
Abortion is one issue that appeared to cut in Democrat’s favor during the 2022 mid-terms, but it’s important mainly among unmarried women. Republicans hold the statistical advantage with both married and unmarried men along with married women; abortion is not the top issue for these constituencies.
The abortion issue certainly helped Gretchen Whitmer as Michigan voters collectively forgot her abysmal COVID policy. Abortion ballot initiatives also brought out voters in Michigan and six other states. The Whitmer campaign hammered the abortion message and it paid off for them.
Here’s the problem for Democrats, however. The American people haven’t yet realized abortion is no longer a national issue. Governor Whitmer, as a state official, can impact abortion policy in Michigan, but Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi as national leaders, cannot. The Dobbs ruling returned the abortion decision to states (overturning-roe-v-wade-a-return-to-federalism). Voters will eventually realize abortion has not been rolled back much. If you want an abortion, your state or a nearby one likely allows it. This issue should not continue to pay dividends in national elections.
On the flip side, the Ohio governor signed an abortion bill a couple years back; it does not allow for abortions after a fetal heartbeat (approximately six weeks). This is not a total ban, but is far more restrictive than the 20-week limit imposed by Roe v. Wade. The law went into effect in 2022 after the Supreme Court ruling. The Ohio governor was not penalized for this action as he won overwhelmingly in 2022 (62% to 37%), proving the issue can pay benefits for Republican politicians, and that as time passes people will see these restrictions as reasonable.
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