New abortion laws result of long-term strategy to overturn Roe v Wade

WICHITA, Kan. (KAKE) -

"Obviously, this has been a long time coming," said Dr. Russell Arben Fox, political scientist from Friends University.  He's speaking about the recent resurgence in what has been a low-key fight over abortion over the last few years.  

With the heated debate back in the headlines, some are asking what's going on.  Fox says it comes down to one person's new job.

"It's a gorgeous day so we decided to get out. have some fun, go down the slides," said Rishonna Durham of Wichita.  

She took advantage of Sunday's nice weather to spend some time at the park with her little boy, Brooks.  Many around them were talking about new abortion laws popping up around the country.

"I don't know, it seems like it always comes up every now and again," she said.

There's a lot of surprise after Alabama and Georgia passed essentially complete bans on abortion and Missouri and Ohio made headlines by ending abortions with the first heartbeat.

"If it's the will of the people to do that, then I'm not quite that surprised, I guess," said Elizabeth Thompson, also out at the park with her family.

On the other side of the abortion debate, New York and Virginia recently passed laws protecting broad rights to an abortion.

Dr. Fox says this rash of  new abortion laws is part of a long game to overturn Roe v Wade, the case legalizing abortion.  Some states now pushing for a new ruling while others are trying to protect against it.

"For the first time in close to half a century, abortion politics can be completely upended," he said.  "And thus, you see a lot of states scrambling one way or another to take advantage of, or to protect themselves from, these kinds of potential changes at the top."

Fox says when Senator Mitch McConnell refused to hold hearings on President Obama's Supreme Court pick, he gambled Americans would elect a conservative president who would nominate an anti-abortion judge, thus moving conservatives into the majority in the U.S. Supreme Court and into position to overturn Roe v Wade.

"And now, thanks to President Trump, we really do have a clear majority of (conservative) people on the Supreme Court," Fox said.  "There are many, many thousands, hundreds of thousands of people across the United States for whom the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh was the thing that they've been waiting for for decades."

Brett Kavanaugh completed that swing on the Supreme Court.

Or has he? Once on the Supreme Court there's no guarantee how a judge will vote, like conservative Chief Justice John Roberts' voting to support the Affordable Care Act.

"Some people anticipate that he will do the same sort of thing with abortion," Fox said.  "Roberts, though, he is obviously a conservative, he's tried very hard to create decisions on the Supreme Court that are relatively balanced."

Dr. Fox says this all or nothing battle isn't what most Americans, most Kansans really want.

"Basically, voters have always been in the middle and they're still in the middle. What is happening is that the political parties are responding to activists," Fox said.  "I mean, you will not be able to find many Republicans, if any Republicans in Kansas, who would identify themselves as Pro-Choice, but you can find plenty of Republicans in Kansas who will look at like the state of Alabama and say, 'Oh, well, that's way too far. That's way too extreme.'  And they will own kind of being in the middle, when it comes to an abortion."

In the 2017 Kansas Speaks Survey, 45% of Kansas voters were mixed on abortion, saying it should be legal to an extent, as well as somewhat restricted. Another 29% thought abortions should be legal for any woman who chooses it.  The most commonly accepted reasons for an abortion, according to the survey, were when the  mother's life is in danger, in instances of incest and rape, and when the fetus will have serious future health problems.

"Everybody has their own personal belief on what is acceptable and what isn't," said Thompson, who identifies as an abortion opponent.  "I've never been in a situation like that so I personally, I could not argue against a person that has considered an abortion or has had an abortion.  All I would want to do is show them love and support.  I would want to show them all the options that are available to them."

Despite Kansas' history of anti-abortion activism, the state isn't on the front lines of this renewed battle.  This is because of a Kansas Supreme Court ruling this spring that the state constitution protects the right to an abortion.  Dr. Fox says Kansas should definitely expect a big fight next year on a constitutional amendment to remove those abortion protections.