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Pro-lifers find silver linings after midterm losses

States maintained the status quo and saw some gains


Kris Kobach (center) in Topeka, Kan., on Nov. 9 Associated Press/Photo by Reed Hoffmann

Pro-lifers find silver linings after midterm losses

As pro-lifers regroup from disappointing midterm elections results, they still have some cause for celebration. Voters in a dozen states reelected governors who signed pro-life legislation. Those same states already have laws protecting babies from abortion starting at either conception or six weeks of gestation, and they maintained strong Republican majorities in those state legislatures.

In Kansas, Kentucky, and North Carolina, pro-life measures or candidates lost, but the status quo stayed the same. And, in one state, pro-life victories on the state Supreme Court mean the possibility of more pro-life legislation taking effect.

In August, the failure of Kansas’ pro-life ballot measure shocked activists across the country. The amendment would have clarified that the Kansas Constitution doesn’t guarantee a right to abortion. At the time, Kentucky pro-lifers took the Kansas loss as a reason to work even harder to educate voters about a similar, upcoming ballot measure in their state. It still surprised even pro-abortion groups when the Kentucky measure failed, too.

After their loss in August, pro-life Kansans hoped to replace their pro-abortion governor, Laura Kelly. Brittany Jones, the director of policy and engagement at Kansas Family Voice, said conservatives in the state thought Kelly’s opponent had a chance at winning. Derek Schmidt is pro-life and the outgoing attorney general. He lost to Kelly in a close race.

But pro-lifers in both Kentucky and Kansas still see a silver lining to the year’s election results.

“It looks like our House will be more conservative,” Jones said. “We held on to all of our statewide seats, and we … elected a Republican to the treasurer’s office.”

Republican Kris Kobach will replace Schmidt as Kansas attorney general. Schmidt reached his term limit in that office. Kobach supported the state’s failed pro-life amendment. His opponent, Democrat Chris Mann, said in a debate that he wouldn’t “waste the resources of the office to attack women’s constitutional rights.” Mann also criticized Kobach’s plans to attempt to overturn a 2019 state Supreme Court decision that declared a right to abortion.

“We’re basically in the same position we’ve been in for the last four years,” said Jones. “We know how to do this. We know how to keep fighting for families and working for moms and babies.”

For Kentucky, the silver lining is a little brighter. It failed to pass its ballot initiative that would have clarified the state constitution does not guarantee a right to abortion. But unlike Kansas, Kentucky already had a law protecting babies from abortion starting from conception. It faces legal challenges, and David Walls of the Family Foundation in Kentucky said the failure to pass the constitutional amendment “does heighten the stakes” of that litigation. “The current makeup of the court, in terms of how they’re going to side on this issue frankly is a little bit up in the air,” Walls said.

On the bright side, Walls pointed to the election outcomes in the state legislature. “Pro-life candidates who either have voting records and voted pro-life or ran on a pro-life platform had success in Kentucky up and down the ballot,” he said. Kentucky has a pro-abortion governor, but it also has veto-proof pro-life supermajorities in the House and Senate. The 2022 elections solidified that lead. Republicans gained five seats in the House and one in the Senate.

Walls said he expects the legislature to use that power to pass bills to help support pregnant mothers and families, including possible changes to the state’s adoption laws. He also wants to prioritize making sure the state enforces its existing pro-life laws, including prohibitions on mail order distribution of the abortion pill.

“So the reality is, you know, nothing should change. The constitution just remains unchanged and our laws remain unchanged. … We’re hopeful and praying that we don’t end up with an activist decision from the Kentucky Supreme Court that tries to take away the authority of our lawmakers to make laws to protect unborn life,” Walls said.

Meanwhile, voters in North Carolina elected a majority to the state Supreme Court that is likely to uphold future pro-life laws. Going into the election, Democratic justices held a 4-3 lead. Coming out of Election Day, Republican justices prevailed 5-2 and kept the chief justice seat. John Rustin, president of the North Carolina Family Policy Council, said Republicans are likely to maintain that majority for at least six years because no GOP seats on the court are up for election again until 2028.

The extra time will be helpful because Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper is sure to veto pro-life bills. His term does not end until 2025. Although Republicans gained the two Senate seats they needed for a veto-proof supermajority in that chamber, they fell one seat short in the House. Current North Carolina law allows for abortions until 20 weeks of gestation. The state still faces legal challenges to past pro-life legislation such as a 72-hour waiting period and restrictions on the abortion pill.

Rustin hopes that the North Carolina House and Senate will at least pursue a heartbeat bill and legislation to expand resources for women with unplanned pregnancies. Overcoming the governor’s likely vetoes of pro-life legislation will require a bipartisan coalition in support of the bills, and Rustin said that’s what the North Carolina Family Policy Council will work toward.

Despite ongoing legislative and judicial battles in the state, Rustin was hopeful: “North Carolina after the election is certainly in a much better place with respect to life.”


Leah Savas

Leah is the life beat reporter for World News Group. She is a graduate of Hillsdale College and the World Journalism Institute and resides in Grand Rapids, Mich., with her husband, Stephen.

@leahsavas

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