- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 3, 2022

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

The developments are giving Democrats hope that they have found their motivating issue for the midterm elections, trumpeting the loss of the Kansas amendment as evidence that 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%.

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

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

“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 before 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 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, a spokeswoman for Susan B. Anthony 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 Sixteen 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 health care, 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 Susan B. Anthony 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 nondiscrimination laws, including providing technical assistance for providers confused about their obligations after 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.

Still, 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 health care access, which was formed last month. After Mr. Biden signed the order, Cabinet officials reported on the progress of the task force.

Early last month, Mr. Biden signed an order directing Mr. Becerra to find ways the administration can protect access to abortion medications.

Pro-choice activists criticized the administration’s sluggish response, especially given that the Supreme Court draft opinion was leaked weeks before the final decision was officially announced.

They also griped that the executive order 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 women seeking abortions.

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

A group of 80 House Democrats last month sent a letter calling on Mr. Biden and Mr. Becerra to make abortion a public health emergency. The White House resisted because it would open federal funds that the Supreme Court would likely reject.

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

The Defense Department said it will continue providing coverage for 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.

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

• Jeff Mordock can be reached at jmordock@washingtontimes.com.

• Valerie Richardson can be reached at vrichardson@washingtontimes.com.

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