Abortion activists, Biden predict abortion rights will galvanize Democrats at the polls this fall


President Biden signed his second executive action to protect abortion rights on Wednesday, one day after the decisive referendum in Kansas that rejected state limits on abortion access.

The developments are giving Democrats hope that they’ve found their motivating issue for the midterm elections, trumpeting the loss of the Kansas amendment as evidence abortion is a winning issue even in red states.

In the first statewide electoral test since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, voters in the traditionally red state overwhelmingly rejected a constitutional amendment that would have allowed lawmakers to ban abortion in the state. With about 95% of the vote counted, the measure was defeated decisively — 59% to 41%.

It was a surprising outcome in the state where Republicans far outnumber Democrats.

Abortion activists and Democrats are banking that the outcome, which came just three months before the midterm elections, demonstrates that the issue is a significant motivator for Democratic voters in the fall.

“The voters in Kansas sent a powerful signal that this fall voters will vote to preserve and protect their rights and refuse to let them be ripped away by politicians, and my administration has their back,” Mr. Biden said in remarks at the White House ahead of signing his latest executive order on abortion.

SEE ALSO: Biden to issue second executive order to protect abortion rights

With Mr. Biden’s approval ratings dragged down by soaring inflation, the president is desperate to capitalize on an issue that will send voters to the polls to elect pro-choice Democratic candidates.

The hope among abortion activists is that anger over the Supreme Court’s decision will galvanize voters in House and Senate races to elect candidates who will codify abortion rights into federal law.

“The upcoming midterm elections will be a deciding factor in abortion access across the country, and there were a lot of lessons learned with this Kansas vote that we can take into the next couple of months,” said Sharmin Hossain, director of Liberate Abortion Campaign, a pro-choice group. “Americans are seeing firsthand the devastation bans cause. Voters are energized in ways we haven’t seen before, and they’re making one thing loud and clear: they will not tolerate extreme restrictions or bans on abortion.”

Meanwhile, pro-life advocates licked their wounds over the setback, all the more painful because it took place in a red state that went overwhelmingly for Donald Trump over Mr. Biden in the 2020 presidential race.

Mallory Carroll, spokeswoman for SBA Pro-Life America, called the loss in Kansas “a huge disappointment for pro-life Kansans and Americans nationwide.”

“The abortion lobby’s message to voters was rife with lies that ultimately drowned out the truth,” she said. “Because of [Tuesday’s] results, Kansas could shortly become home to unrestricted abortion on demand – even late-term abortion without limits, paid for by taxpayers.”

The election analysis zeroed in on the somewhat ambiguous ballot language, which did not add abortion restrictions but sought to override the 2019 Kansas Supreme Court decision holding that the state constitution guaranteed the right to “personal autonomy,” including abortion.

The proposed amendment said that “the constitution of the state of Kansas does not require government funding of abortion and does not create or secure a right to abortion,” and that the legislature “may pass laws regarding abortion,” including exceptions for rape, incest and the life of the mother.

“How many Kansans who are generally pro-life but not plugged in went to the polls, read the ballot language, and thought, ‘Sh**, I don’t want to let the legislature pass abortion laws. I’m pro-life,’” tweeted conservative pundit Erick Erickson.

Chelsey Youman, national legislative adviser with the Human Coalition Action, said the vote shows that the pro-life movement “cannot rest on its laurels” after the Supreme Court’s June 24 decision in Dobbs v. Jackson, which overturned Roe v. Wade.

The ballot language has to be “crystal clear and easily explainable to voters,” and pro-lifers need to highlight “the extremism on the other side,” she said.

“Americans don’t want abortion up to the point of birth, or taxpayer-funded abortion,” said Ms. Youman. “If the other side tries to force that on a state, local pro-lifers must respond with targeted policies. And they must emphasize the violent reality of abortion — and the clear humanity of the preborn child — to win over hearts and minds.”

Abortion-rights groups outspent the opposition, albeit not overwhelmingly. The pro-choice campaign Kansans for Constitutional Freedom reported raising $6.5 million, boosted by contributions from Planned Parenthood and the Six Thirty Fund.

The pro-amendment Value Them Both campaign raised $4.7 million, which included $2.5 million from the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas, according to the July 21 campaign-spending reports.

Second executive order

At the White House, Mr. Biden signed the executive order directing Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra to “consider” ways to apply Medicaid waivers to assist patients who cross state lines for abortion services. The waiver would help cover certain costs for low-income women seeking abortions.

“We are doing everything in our power to safeguard access to healthcare, including the right to choose that women had under Roe v. Wade, which was ripped away by this extreme court,” Mr. Biden said.

Groups that oppose abortion and Republicans slammed the executive order, suggesting it violates the Hyde Amendment by using taxpayer funds for abortion.

“Biden and the Democrats make a serious error in assuming Americans nationwide agree with their radical agenda – using the full weight of the federal government to impose abortion on demand up to the moment of birth, illegally forcing taxpayers to fund it,” said Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of SBA Pro-Life America.

Republican National Committee chairwoman Ronna McDaniel blasted Mr. Biden’s focus on the abortion issue.

“Our country is in a recession, Americans can’t afford gas or groceries, and yet all Joe Biden cares about is pushing his radical and unpopular late-term abortion agenda,” Ms. McDaniel said. “Republicans will continue to fight for commonsense pro-life protections and the pocketbook issues that families care about.”

The order also directs Mr. Becerra to look into ways to ensure abortion providers comply with federal non-discrimination laws, including providing technical assistance for providers confused about their obligations following the Supreme Court’s decision.

In some states that have outlawed abortion, women who need medical care for miscarriages are getting delayed or denied care because of confusion over the laws.

The order also instructs Mr. Becerra to improve data collection on maternal health outcomes.

However, the order is short on specifics on how Mr. Becerra can achieve Mr. Biden’s goal of increasing abortion access, instead just directing him to “consider actions.”

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre declined to hash out specifics or even a timetable for HHS to release details about the steps it will take.

Mr. Biden signed the executive order at the first meeting of the administration’s Interagency Task Force on Reproductive Healthcare Access. After Mr. Biden signed the order, Cabinet officials reported on the progress of that task force that was formed last month.

Wednesday’s order follows a separate action Mr. Biden signed last month directing Mr. Becerra to find ways the administration can protect access to abortion medications.

The action issued in early July was widely panned by pro-choice activists who criticized the president for his administration’s sluggish response, especially given that the Supreme Court draft opinion was leaked weeks before the official decision.

They also griped that last month’s executive largely left the details up to Mr. Becerra to find ways to ensure access to abortion medication, and tasked the chair of the Federal Trade Commission to “consider actions” to protect the privacy of patients seeking abortions.

Pro-choice activists have urged Mr. Biden to declare a public health emergency that would ensure that abortion pills can still be prescribed in states where abortion is illegal. They have also called on him to open up federal lands for abortion services, but the White House has dismissed the idea, saying it has “dangerous ramifications.”

A group of 80 House Democratic lawmakers last month sent a letter to Mr. Biden and Mr. Becerra calling on them to make abortion a public health emergency. But the White House has resisted because it will open up little federal funds and will likely be rejected by the Supreme Court.

Still, the White House has taken a few steps to restore abortion access, including affirming that employees can use sick leave to get an abortion.

The Defense Department said it will continue providing covered abortions to military personnel, defense civilians, and eligible family members. The U.S. Postal Service pledged not to crack down on mail-order abortion pills, even in states where the drugs are prohibited.

On Tuesday, the Biden administration filed a lawsuit against Idaho for restricting abortion access for patients who need lifesaving medical treatment.


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