Wednesday, August 03, 2022

Seven Theses on Kansas, "Popularism," and Value Them Both

Well, my predictions from yesterday were wrong (mostly; I was still right about Kris Kobach getting the Republican Attorney General nomination). And while the image I used yesterday to reflect the diversity of the No campaign here in Wichita didn't unintentionally predict the final state-wide vote totals (59% voted No, not 75%), the fact is it was a lot closer than I or any other serious political observer here in Kansas that I'm aware of actually believed was possible. So what more is there to say.

Well, a few things, anyway:

1) Let me repeat what I just wrote: nobody I am aware of who as at all seriously engaged in following these campaigns--and I've talked to people at the Kansas Reflector, at Vox, at Newsweek, at ABC News and KAKE News locally, and many more places about all this--was predicting that in an August primary election, in a strongly Republican state, would result in a win for abortion rights by 10 points, much less nearly 20 points. As the very first election to take place anywhere in America after the overturning of Roe v. Wade and the ending of a national constitutional guarantee of at least limited access to abortion services, the size of the Value Them Both amendment's defeat is bound to create a lot of political noise.

2) Political noise...but maybe not immediate political changes. Political parties are mighty beasts, and different factions or interest groups that have put in years of work and money and organizational strategy in shaping their platforms, and thereby socializing and contributing to the further self-sorting of voters who look at those parties and platforms, aren't going to want to see them make an about-face after just one election. Here in Kansas, I would expect that Governor Kelly will express gratitude for the results, and then proceed to run her re-election campaign in with the same wonky focus on Medicaid expansion and other nuts-and-bolts issues that she's always preferred; similarly, I bet that Derek Schmidt will prefer to say as little as possible about the failed amendment, and run the same "Governor Kelly serves the radical left in Washington DC" ads that he's team has no doubt long since prepped, only with references to abortion very much cut back.

3) Why? Because Schmidt will know, as will leaders of the GOP's current super-majority in Topeka, that there is simply no honest way to parse these numbers without acknowledging that there were a good number of Republicans--including at least a small-but-nonetheless-meaningful slice of Kobach-supporting, low-propensity, normally-November-voting-only, self-identifying conservative Republicans!--who voted against the amendment. The majority of the Republicans in Topeka come from safe enough seats not to worry about alienating those Republicans who wandered off the anti-abortion reservation this particular election...but there are at least a few who will worry about them, and Schmidt, who needs to hold on to votes in the same urban counties which Kelly won in 2018, will worry about them as well.

4) So I suspect that the short-term consequences of this vote won't be especially visible. It's the medium-term consequences, the post-November 2022 consequences, which could potentially put some real force behind all the chatter which Value Them Both's defeat is generating. I could be wrong, of course; my track record suggests I probably will be. Maybe the Kansas GOP will immediately throw all their efforts behind voting to unseat state supreme court justices in November, and immediately start talking about taking another shot at amending the constitution, this time grudgingly including language about how the Kansas constitution does guarantee that there cannot be a total, no-exceptions-for-rape-or-incest-or-medical-emergency abortion ban. But I doubt it; rather, I think they're going to want to wait to see how this vote is reflected in other votes nationally, and how the overall abortion discourse continues to evolve.

5) After all, in the meantime there is probably going to be a small, perhaps invisible, but almost certainly nonetheless viscous, fracture within the Kansas GOP to deal with, all while the gubernatorial election is going on. Because there will be Republicans--the small-government, business-oriented, libertarian-inclined, individualistic Republicans from rural Kansas, the pragmatic folks that, before Brownback and Trump would have been considered the backbone of the party--that will have serious questions for why their party essentially out-sourced themselves to Kansas Catholic archdioceses for this election, and why they ended up (by driving all the cultural conservatives to the August voting booth) saddling themselves with a three-time loser like Kris Kobach as their attorney general candidate. That fracture doesn't exist in isolation, of course; the divide between the numerous micro-factions that make up the much-declined (but not extinct) moderate bloc of Republican voters and the even more numerous micro-factions that make up the dominant (but not completely unobstructed) conservative, Trumpist bloc of Republicans, has been a feature of Kansas politics for decades, and this internal fight will be folded into it. Will it push the party towards a new balance? Dion Lefler, who has watched Kansas politics as closely as anyone I know, thinks it might; we need to wait and see.

6) As we wait for the medium- and long-term consequences of a strongly Republican state voting in a way that actually reflects the existing polling data here in the state, as opposed to being led by party allegiance to support the much more extreme positions adopted by minority anti-abortion factions in their parties, to play themselves out, one note about "popularism." While there are many ways to make use of this wonky idea which has emerged among Democratic activists over the past couple of years, the basic idea is that Democrats hurt themselves when they allow their party to become associated with liberal or progressive or radical or socialist ideas that don't poll well, even if their purported consequences are ones voters clamor for. The question, as my old friend Damon Linker posed months ago, is whether the insights of popularism--that is, building campaigns around those ideas which poll well with ordinary voters, keeping the question of whether or not they are truly empowering or "populist" insofar as the interests of ordinary people are concerned as a secondary concern ("normie politics," as Freddie deBoer put it)--apply to Republicans as well. Noting the extreme abortion bans popping up through legislative action throughout the country in the wake of Roe's overturning, Damon wondered if Republicans are "governed by the principle that there are and can be no negative electoral consequences from moving too far to the antiliberal right on cultural issues." If so, then the defeat of Value Them Both might be seen as sign that some Republicans had had enough, or at least were content with what they had (abortion is already quite heavily regulated in Kansas), and didn't want to see the status quo disrupted, even if that meant challenging their own party's priorities in this primary election.

7) Finally, if nothing else, let's enjoy a couple of news cycles where people wonder how on earth an anti-abortion referendum could have lost in Kansas. The context is totally different, but I can’t help, as I look at the incredulity around me, but remember an exchange during the debate over the non-discrimination ordinance adopted here in Wichita by the city council last year. City ordinances to explicitly list and defend the rights of LGBTQ citizens had been pushed by many groups throughout Kansas for years, and Mayor Brandon Whipple made supporting such a priority. It passed by a 6-1 vote, but not before much argument on the council, some of it contentious, and two marathon open city council meetings that went on for hours, with dozens of people showing up to elaborate about how an NDO was an attack on religious freedom. At one of those meetings, a woman showed up and looked at the council (which ultimately, after many delays, voted for the ordinance by 6-1), shook her head, and said, in essence, “this isn’t the Kansas way, this isn’t the Wichita way, I don’t know who you people think you’re representing.” When she saw Mayor Whipple roll his eyes, she zeroed in on him, observing that her grandchildren deserved to grow up in a Christian world, "not Brandon Whipple’s world." I’ve never heard the conviction held by that shrinking-but-still powerful segment of Kansas voters that true “Kansas values” can’t possibly include abortion rights, LGBTQ protections, etc., expressed so pithily. Until today, that is.

Tuesday, August 02, 2022

Three Predictions Regarding the Abortion Amendment Vote in Kansas Today

These four images are just a sampling of the yard signs which have sprouted everywhere in my west Wichita neighborhood over the past couple of months; a complete record of the public expressions about today's amendment vote in yards within just a half-mile of my home would have to include twice as many pics. Do the three "No" signs to the one "Yes" sign suggest that the Noes outnumber the Yeses three to one? No, actually around where we live, the Yeses visibly outnumber the Noes, though only slightly. But every single Yes sign I've seen--not just in our neighborhood, but everywhere throughout the city--is the same as the one in the lower right-hand corner, whereas I'm aware of a half-dozen different No signs besides the ones I've included here, put forward by a close to a dozen different organizations, and that diversity is worth thinking about. 

And yes, I have thought about it, as I have many other things having to do with this amendment, both politically and personally. And I've talked about it: to the Kansas Reflector, to Vox, to KAKE News, and to "Good Morning America" on ABC (both video and print). So after all this thinking and writing, I must have some opinions about the vote itself, right? Well, sure. Here are three, for anyone who cares. (And please remember: my track record when it comes to predictions is pretty horrible.)

1) I think the amendment will pass, but only barely, perhaps by as little as 1% of all the votes cast, or even less. I'm thinking about the election of 2020, where Democrats were as organized and well-funded and had as effective a get-out-the-vote operation in support of Barbara Bollier's U.S. Senate run as I've ever seen here in this state where Republicans outnumber Democrats by more than 2-to-1 in most precincts. And the result, at least by most readings of the election results, was that all that money mostly managed to activate lots of low-propensity, non-ideological, historically Republican voters...who ended up mostly voting for the Republican in the Senate race, which resulted in Bollier, despite benefiting from comparatively fantastic turn-out numbers, losing decisively. 

I suspect something similar will happen here. The Republican majority in Topeka wanted this election to take place during an August primary election, not a general election, assuming the more ideologically passionate primary electorate would be much more likely to vote to open the door to much more extreme anti-abortion legislation than Kansas currently has on the books than would the more ambivalent and diverse electorate that shows up in November. That assumption will work for them, I think, despite what will be a large increase in the turnout of Democrats and unaffiliated voters, thanks to the overturning of Roe v. Wade which generated great consternation, fear, and energy among defenders of abortion rights and unleashed a huge amount of anti-amendment money. The only reason, I predict, that their plan will still work in the face of that is because the conservative anti-abortion faithful will be joined by a small percentage of the less passionate Republican electorate that will show up to vote.

2) The smallness of the victory will throw Republican unity over legislative priorities and electoral prospects in Kansas into chaos. Note what I just said above: I'm guessing that the percentage of the low-propensity Republican voters who support the amendment will be "small"--sufficient to give the Yes campaign a win, but only a tiny one. Because along with the high turnout of Democrats and various unaffiliated, low-propensity abortion-rights defenders, you're going to see a good number of Republicans, many of whom that might otherwise score themselves as quite conservative, deeply distressed by this result. Between the purges of Republican moderates orchestrated by Governor Brownback between 2010 and 2014, and the Republicans that have taken themselves out of the game since Trumpism came to dominate most of the Kansas GOP, it's not like the Republican moderates have anything like the influence within the party which they had decades ago. Still, they are out there--and they depend upon those low-propensity Republican voters, along with the occasional moderate Democrat, to stay in office. The majority of those two groups will turn out to have voted "No" on the amendment, which means they will go into the November elections with ready-made target on their backs: they'll easily be painted as just another extremist, one of those who orchestrated the amendment and is looking to impose a total, no-exceptions, Oklahoma-style abortion ban. 

How will they defend themselves against that charge? I presume by promising like mad to their voters that they will never, ever, ever, support a super-majority challenge to Governor Kelly's veto of extreme abortion legislation. Will that work? It will for some of them. But between the tiny number of moderate Republicans in Topeka either running scared or losing to angry Democrats and the occasional Republican who feels totally burned by what their party pulled off in August, the Republican super-majority in Topeka, at least when it comes to abortion, will disappear. Governor Kelly will position herself and her veto pen as the only thing standing between the ambivalent, diverse voters of Kansas's 10 or so urban counties (which, given that the rural counties which make up 90% of Kansas's territory having been mostly losing population for decades, are the only ones you need to win) and a total abortion ban, and that be winning argument. And because the Republican leaders in Topeka aren't idiots, they're going to be able to see all of the above clearly, and will try to force (with perhaps only moderate success) the firebrands in their party to shut up about abortion bans, and will attempt to pretend that the plans for extreme legislation that has already been floated in Republican circles simply doesn't exist--none of which will make those who bankrolled the Yes campaign for the Republican party at all happy. 

This is Kansas, so surely the Republicans will get it back together soon enough. But they won't, I think, do so soon enough to prevent enough of a fracturing of the GOP in November for Kelly and the state Democratic party to give themselves a fighting chance during what otherwise will likely be a blood-bath for Democrats nationally. Among other things, watch the Value Them Both true-believers put Kris Kobach over the top in the Republican primary for attorney general, and then watch him struggle mightily to turn around his losing streak as he goes up against Chris Mann, who will probably benefit from a decent number of those ticked-off non-culture-warrior, normally-November-only Republican voters, in the general.

3) The overall result of the vote, insofar as public health is concerned, particularly for poor women, will be very bad, but there could be a possible silver lining. The immense and multifaceted organizational and electoral work which amendment opponents have done over the past months won't be entirely for naught; I think, when the votes are all counted, it will be clear that they kept an August primary voter in a strongly Republican state with a large, passionate, and well-organized anti-abortion minority from walking away with a major win, holding them to a squeaker of a victory, with all the consequences I'm imagining above. But in the long run, assuming the variables at work in the abortion debate nationally do not markedly change, extreme anti-abortion legislation will probably come to Kansas eventually anyway, maybe even an Oklahoma-style total ban, though it may take until the end of Governor Kelly's second term to do put it together. For tens of thousands of Kansans, that development, if it turns out to be correct, will be very bad indeed.

But by that time, there's also a decent chance that enough Republican legislators, in the wake of what surely at least a handful of them will consider a to have been a Pyrrhic victory this Augut, could be convinced to go against their leadership, and Kansas will finally expand Medicaid, as every state surrounding us (including Oklahoma!) already has. Obviously, that's not going to help Kansas women without the means to travel who find their ability to choose for themselves how to deal with the anguish of a crisis pregnancy taken away from them by the government (if you've read this far and actually are an undecided voter, then please, if you care about those women at all, get yourself to a polling station immediately, vote No, and make my predictions irrelevant!). But it may give those trying to help those women a resource to build upon into the future, and that's not nothing, even if it's not enough.

Guess we'll find out how wrong I am soon enough.

Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Why I have a Pro-Choice Sign in my Front Yard (Even Though I Don't Call Myself That)

[The publication Current asked me to write up my thoughts about abortion; I ended up writing nearly 3000 words. A much, much shortened version of the essay below is available on their website this morning, but if you want to read the full thing, go for it. Cross-posted to By Common Consent.]

That sign is in our front yard, signalling our support for defeating the "Value Them Both" amendment on the ballot here in Kansas this August. If the amendment referendum succeeds, it would overturn a state supreme court decision which determined that the Kansas state constitution guarantees at least minimal abortion rights to Kansas women, thus allowing Kansans opposed to abortion rights to follow our neighboring states of Oklahoma and Missouri and push for a total abortion ban. The sign thus betokens a "pro-choice" position, even though I've never called myself that and think the language of individual "choice" when it comes to abortion is part of the whole problem. So why am I, some who was raised in a politically conservative (but not, as I later came to see, particularly ideological) Mormon home and thoroughly absorbed the repugnance of abortion which was communicated to me, taking this position all these years later? Well, that's a story, mostly having to do with what my wife and four daughters have taught me along the way.

When I say "repugnance," I really mean it. While my parents were never activists and anti-abortion literature didn't litter our home, the moral and even visual revulsion to the practice of abortion was invoked anytime the topic came up (which, in the late 1970s and early 1980s, during the death-rattle years of the Equal Rights Amendment--my church having played a major role in sealing its fate--was not infrequently). I can still call up in my memory a feverish image that somehow made its way into my brain when I was still a child: that of an abortion doctor plunging a huge butcher knife into a woman’s vagina, murdering the child in her womb. (I should note that the fact that some zealous opponents of abortion rights might point to procedures used in incredibly rare late-term abortions to insist upon the basic accuracy of that nightmarish image from decades ago has no effect on my thinking today; what I find most repugnant in 2022 is very different than it once was.)

Was it all just moral revulsion and distaste? No, there was some actual doctrine taught as well (emphasis on "some"). Mormon leaders over the decades have made multiple, if not numerous, statements regarding abortion, with some stipulating that “life begins when two germ cells unite to become one cell, bringing together twenty-three chromosomes from both the father and from the mother”--which would seem to suggest that Mormon doctrine teaches that life begins at the creation of human zygote--and others stipulating that a woman’s “right to choose what will or will not happen to her body” is fundamentally limited if “she behaves in such a way that a human fetus is conceived”--which would seem to suggest, in light of the previous declaration, that any sexual activity which results in the creation of a cell-multiplying zygote entails a mother’s complete responsibility to preserve that cell-multiplying life. In practice, however, none of these teachings were ever politically deployed throughout Mormonism in a theologically rigorous or ecclesiastically consistent way (which is not to say there haven’t been attempts to do so). In general though, the unarticulated presumption seems to have been (and still seems to be) that stating officially that “elective abortion for personal or social convenience is contrary to the will and the commandments of God” is sufficient, with no further elaboration or explanation regarding public matters being necessary. Repugnance at the idea of extinguishing “a cherished newborn baby,” complete with “beautiful eyes” and “little fingers” was perhaps assumed to do the rest.

It certainly did for me, for many years. The change in my opinions didn’t come at once, my movement away from being “pro-life” (a phrase I don’t remember particularly liking even in my most ardent phases) was a long process. Well into my 30s and 40s, articulating a set of reasons that could make sense of my youthful revulsion--even as I grew into a fuller understanding of the deep complexities of human sexuality, science, and sociality—remained hugely important to me, thus leading me blog about abortion and related topics repeatedly, in perhaps some increasingly strained ways.

During these years, for reasons that are probably similar to those of nearly every person who comes to think differently about the faith of their youth as they grow older, I became more and more doubtful that the statements of Mormon leaders, when not explicitly grounded in the scriptural canon, were necessarily the word of God and thus normative. For related reasons over the same time span, I came to recognize the scriptures as exceptionally complicated and thus not well-served by the proof-texts, just-so-stories, and tidy logical conclusions so unfortunately common in Mormondom (and pretty much every other Christian domination as well, to be fair), especially in regards to complicated claims regarding the pre-natal beginnings of meaningful life. And finally, officially non-Mormon (though unofficially, many conservative Mormon leaders and thinkers had been borrowing them for years) anti-abortion arguments, such as those dependent upon a religious invocation of natural law, became increasingly implausible to me; for example, I found the teleological demand to view a human zygote which may or may not implant itself in a woman’s uterine wall as equal in every way to a newborn baby simply unpersuasive, philosophically speaking. So what coherent articulation of anti-abortion belief did that leave me with, if I wasn’t to simply dismiss my original revulsions and intuitions as bankrupt, but neither found them well served by the simplistic affirmations of my leaders or many other anti-abortion thinkers? Well, one grounded in my long-standing contempt for philosophical individualism and capitalist commodification. Abortion, I came to believe, was a moral evil not primarily because of its harm to human lives (since 99% of abortions in the United States take place months before the life of the fetus in question stops being a matter of mere scientific principle and instead becomes an actionable reality), but rather because it was rooted in a socially harmful, choice-centric sense of disposability: a disconnect from both the anthropological fact and the civic ideal that our social relationships form a connection (as Edmund Burke said) between the living and the dead and the not yet born. Stanley Hauerwas’s essay “Abortion, Theologically Understood,” though I do not agree with all of it, made this point better than I ever could:

If you want to know who is destroying the babies of this country through abortion, look at privatization, which is learned in the economic arena. Under the veil of American privatization, we are encouraging people to believe in the same way that Andrew Carnegie believed. He thought that he had a right to his steel mills. In the same sense, people think that they have a right to their bodies. The body is then a piece of property in a capitalist sense. Unfortunately, that is antithetical to the way we Christians think that we have to share as members of the same body of Christ. So, you cannot separate these issues. If you think that you can be very concerned about abortion and not concerned about the privatization of American life generally, you are making a mistake.

I look today at the 15-year-old essay where I quoted Hauerwas, and I think the perspective it articulated (a perspective I tend to call “left conservative”) remains mostly sound. And yet I want to take much of it back nonetheless, because the animating force behind it—the admittedly simplistic yet still meaningful repugnance I felt when I first learned what abortion meant—has become deeply entwined other, more complicated and, I think, more mature intuitions. I’m particularly bothered by the way, in 2007, when our oldest daughter wasn’t yet 10 years old, I could write that those who defend abortion rights as necessary to the sexual freedom essential to individual personhood, who think it a matter of right to “enjoy sex without their futures or thoughts or relationships being messed up by any communitarian crap in any way, clearly have only ever had sex on the starship Enterprise's Holodeck.” I see the point I was trying to make in those passages, but still, that’s a sentence that could have only been written by a man woefully uninformed about the complications of sexual identity and expression, especially as experienced by women, one of whom he was married to and four of whom he was raising to adulthood. I hope I’ve repented of that presumption.

To be very plain: I now realize that to accept, even just implicitly, the notion that insofar as abortion is concerned there are only two types of pregnancies--those which result from violence, in which case abortion ought to be guaranteed to the violated woman, and those which didn’t result from violence, in which case abortion ought to be treated a perilous choice that needs to be weighed against principles of social responsibility and connection and regulated by the state accordingly--is really stupid, even if a coherent point can be found within it. Why is it really stupid? Because it’s a binary, and binaries practically always fail. Maybe that 16-year-old teen-ager’s, or that divorced woman’s, or that 42-year-old mother’s, sexual decisions were made entirely without violence. But were they made entirely without social pressure? Without religious expectations? Without bad information? Without forced compromises? Without conflicting socio-economic and cultural demands? As I’ve grown older, and watched my daughters grow and move into adulthood, and watched as my wife and I have moved into middle-age, the pressing and often painful complexities of marriage, sex, love, risk, desire, and children, the confusions and justifications and fears which attend all of them (as well as, of course, the many joys and surprises they bring), have simply become enormous to me. Add to that concerns about money, concerns about extended family, concerns about health (both mental and physical), and maybe most importantly, concerns about all the innumerable little assumptions and (mis)understandings amidst the ones we love which we navigate day after day after day. The result of all this is a heaviness—the same sort of heaviness I can remember feeling when I held our firstborn daughter, and felt the enormity which my wife and I had taken responsibility for.

Does that responsibility carry any kind of moral obligation to it? Of course it does! But that obligation cannot be extricated from all the other obligations that come with the complex existences we are all heirs to. Eventually, there came a point when I realized that the repugnance I feel at abortion is more than matched by my repugnance at the prospect that someone with the power of the state (and here I remember Elizabeth Bruenig’s sharp observation from several years ago: “penalty seems to be the only way those operating under the ‘pro-life’ banner feel comfortable expressing their commitment to life”) could approach any woman who has come to a moment of heavy decision-making regarding abortion in the midst of all of the above, looked her in the eye, and say: sorry, but we’ve decided that this choice should not be available to you.

So my intuitive sense of the wrongness of abortion hasn’t changed; that repugnance is still there, and it still guides my thinking. But it is no longer a solitary or supreme guide; there are too many other potential harms, manifest in too many other ways, for me to accept any longer that a pregnancy, insofar as the responsibility to the potential life which it may result in is concerned, is always of only two possible sorts. Between violent rape at one end, and mere (though is it ever actually “mere”?) convenience at the other, there is an immense amount of very murky road. Do my critical views about that individualistic, privatized, choice-centric mentality which treat all the connections in our lives as disposable still matter? Absolutely they do. But mostly today, they lead to me focus ever more on the response that millions of women have screamed, and continue to scream, at anti-abortion politicians who insist upon inserting their concerns into an enormously difficult and private decision, but whose concerns lead them to do exactly nothing in terms of compassionately responding to the enormous weight that women as human beings who can become pregnant and give birth experience every single day of their lives. What about supporting those connections? What about health care? What about maternal leave? What about reproductive assistance generally? What about educational and social and care-giving support? (Carolyn Homer’s list of what the “pro-life” label ought to include is an excellent rundown.) Again, while I do not agree with every implication of her language,

Which is why, here at the end (for now, anyway) of this ongoing argument I've been with myself (and others) for years, we have the aforementioned sign in our front yard. The argument over abortion in the U.S., thanks to Roe v. Wade, Casey v. Planned Parenthood, and other Supreme Court cases, has for a half-century been utterly entwined with—and often served as a proxy for—debates over judicial power and the meaning of democracy. I have strong opinions about both of those debates, both nationally and in the context of our state constitution, and given that I have a profound distaste for undemocratically allowing unelected judges to make policy for the people, one might wonder why, all arguments over abortion aside, I don’t see Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health as a good decision, or Hodes & Nauser v. Schmidt (which articulated a very broad—much too broad, I think, especially given how many Republican politicians hypocritically misused it to justify opposition to vaccination policies during the pandemic—right to “bodily integrity” and thus abortion here in Kansas) as a bad one. The answer, of course, in line with everything I’ve written thus far, is that nothing happens without a surrounding context which weighs upon one’s choices.

I’ll freely admit that if Dobbs really does turn out, in the years to come, to have been just the first step in the expression of the Supreme Court’s determination to no longer involve itself in not just abortion legislation, but voter rights legislation, gerrymandering legislation, health care legislation, gun control legislation, etc., the time may come when I'll eat crow and call this a good decision, at least constitutionally speaking, because the ending of undemocratic judicial rule over the people's elected representatives will turn out to have been a very, very good thing. However, given that the Supreme Court involved itself in New York's century-old and widely supported gun laws literally just the day before Dobbs was handed down, I see no reason to believe the Court is suddenly turning away from screwing with democratically determined legislation. Rather, I conclude—as I think any remotely well-informed observer also must—that the Republican majority on the Court has, with Dobbs, achieved a long-standing and carefully developed (and financially well-supported) political aim, nothing more. That is an aim that will hurt women whose lives I want to make easier; preserving Hodes here in Kansas is, I think, not nearly as much a perhaps unavoidable concession to the individualistic, choice-centric assumptions of our current social order as it is an embrace of showing mutualist support to women who, in the absence of a radical change in the direction of solidarity and equality our economy and culture, are now facing potentially grave harms in their navigation of the heavy choices of family and health and life. (Also, please note that, despite claims to the contrary, Hodes has not “radically changed and expanded the landscape of abortion in Kansas,” unless you think that “landscape” is defined entirely by the ability to the state to be able to ban one particular rare second-trimester abortion procedure or impose prohibitively burdensome abortion clinic requirements; moreover, keep in mind that does the “Value Them Both” amendment really doesn’t appear to do anything of specific value for women’s choices at all anyway). Thus I say, to any Kansan who reads this: vote on no on August 2, please!

Abortion is, I believe, often (if not always and in every way) an evil. I also believe there are lots of evils in this world, some actual and some potential. Telling a pregnant person who might have to tragically confront--in all their diverse physical and economic and familial and occupational and religious and mental situations--a hideously difficult route through all these diverse evils (both real and potential) that they no longer have, and never should have had, a political or legal promise that one particular route will be available to them, no matter what their circumstances or what the science of what’s going on (or not yet going on, or no longer going on) inside their bodies at any point along their pregnancy, is simply repugnant to me. So yes, I changed my mind since I was a boy. If I was able to do so regarding same-sex marriage, I can do it regarding the necessity of abortion rights too.