Pro-Lifers Must Learn from Kansas Loss | Opinion

The most important lesson the pro-life movement can take from our defeat in Kansas' constitutional amendment vote is to recognize that it was a defeat. No good can come from pretending that a double-digit blowout, in a high-turnout election in a red state, is something other than a serious setback.

But neither is it any reason for conservatives to panic. Nothing that happened in Kansas warrants the pro-abortion media's giddy overreaction. The Left's insistence that the end of Roe v. Wade will trigger a nationwide voter backlash remains so much elite-bubble wishful thinking.

Lest we forget, the pro-life movement has been defined by enduring and overcoming disappointments: Sandra Day O'Connor, Anthony Kennedy, David Souter, John Roberts, Planned Parenthood v. Casey. By all rights, the constitutional dumpster fire that is Roe should have been put out decades ago. That it finally was this year is a testament to pro-lifers' ability to react, adapt, and win.

For conservatives, success is always a process of trial and error. And in the Kansas fight, Republican leaders did indeed make an inexcusable error: they sat it out.

The Media-Industrial complex was, as always, totally committed to abortion maximalism in the Kansas campaign. They poured millions of dollars into slickly produced, misleading ads against the "Value Them Both" amendment. They smeared it as cruel and radical, saying that it would mandate a ban on all abortions, endanger women's lives, and provide no exceptions for cases like rape or incest.

The language of the amendment certainly didn't help, either. The wording was so confusing that voters on both sides of the question couldn't be sure whether a "yes" vote was the pro-choice or pro-life position.

But both of those challenges could—and would—have been overcome had the GOP actually showed up for the fight.

The end of Roe was not the end of abortion. It was the beginning, finally, of a real abortion debate in this country. Pro-abortion politicians are eager for it. Too many pro-life ones, though, prefer to duck it. They think they're playing it safe, but all that does is let pro-abortion extremists frame the debate.

Kansas abortion vote lawn signs
Olathe, KANSAS - AUGUST 01: Supporters of the Vote Yes to a Constitutional Amendment on Abortion remove signs along 135th Street on August 01, 2022 in Olathe, Kansas. On August 2, voters will vote on whether or not to remove protection for abortion from the state constitution. Kyle Rivas/Getty Images

It takes a certain kind of partisan malpractice to cede the political high ground to angry fanatics who firebomb churches and threaten opponents, demanding public funding for partial-birth and sex-selective abortions. But here we are.

The good news for pro-life conservatives is that, Kansas notwithstanding, we are still in a still better place than at any time since 1973. The cause of life still enjoys unprecedented momentum.

Thirteen states are already enforcing pro-life laws triggered by the Dobbs decision. Indiana just passed legislation protecting the unborn. Pro-life referenda will be on ballots in several states in November. And the Kansas campaign, too—despite the sting of defeat—gives pro-lifers valuable guidance about how to reclaim the political initiative between now and the midterms.

Indeed, that guidance is already clear: if pro-lifers want to pass pro-life laws, they have to make pro-life arguments.

For all the Left's manipulation, the fact is that the pro-abortion position is closer to the infanticidal barbarism of China's and North Korea's dictatorships than it is to Americans' stated preferences.

A January poll found 71 percent of Americans support placing some restrictions on abortion; pro-abortion politicians, by and large, want none. Most Americans oppose taxpayer funding of abortions—pro-abortion politicians demand it. More than 70 percent of Americans support a ban after 15 weeks of pregnancy. That's the letter of the Mississippi law at issue in Dobbs!

The elite narrative about a monolithically pro-abortion America is a lie. But if pro-lifers—especially high-profile ones in Washington—surrender the field, that lie will win.

Even after Dobbs, the unborn still cannot defend themselves. It is conservatives' privilege to do so, but the Kansas results show that it is also a duty. In the fight for life, failure is not an option—and silence is not a strategy.

Kevin Roberts is president of The Heritage Foundation.

The views expressed in this article are the writer's own.