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Port: Pro-choice Kansas? I'm just glad Americans can govern themselves on abortion again

Breaking news: Democracy is not extremism.

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Demonstrators hold signs outside the U.S. Supreme Court on June 27, 2016.
REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
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MINOT, N.D. — It was a surprising result in Kansas last night, as voters rejected a constitutional amendment that would have allowed state lawmakers to put new restrictions on abortion.

It was a landslide. The "no" votes won by nearly 18 percentage points .

This, my friends, is what democracy looks like.

Whether you like the outcome or not, this is what the U.S. Supreme Court — an institution our friends on the left have excoriated in recent weeks with cries of "extremism" and "fascism" — intended to happen.

The North Dakota Democratic-NPL called the Dobbs decision "evil" and "vile."

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What just happened in Kansas doesn't seem so evil, does it?

News flash: Democracy is not extremism.

"The Constitution does not prohibit the citizens of each State from regulating or prohibiting abortion. Roe and Casey arrogated that authority," Justice Samuel Alito wrote in the now-infamous Dobbs decision . "We now overrule those decisions and return that authority to the people and their elected representatives."

The people spoke in Kansas, and they chose the status quo, which is a protected right to abortion.

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Our pro-choice friends are jubilant, and they have reason to be, though I'd caution them against reading too much into the decision. What was on the ballot last night was the status quo versus a question mark. Kansans were asked to choose between the current state of affairs, and some other state of affairs to be determined by the state Legislature at a future date.

Question marks don't often win on the ballot. A question mark on abortion policy, voted on while tempers are still hot over the Dobbs decision, was never going to fly.

I suspect that Kansas, in the future, will see a proposed amendment emerge that puts some very specific limitations on abortion — perhaps a ban after the first trimester, with some exceptions — and that proposal will likely fair much better before voters.

Most states will likely see something similar happen, because the truth about the abortion debate is that the pro-choice and pro-life positions — insofar as they represent completely unfettered access versus total bans — are actually extreme positions.

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Just 19% of Americans think abortion should be legal with out exception, according to the Pew foundation . Just 8% feel it should be illegal without exceptions.

Anti-abortion protest
Anti-abortion demonstrators stand outside the Red River Women's Clinic on Oct. 9, 2013, in Fargo.
Forum file photo

A 71% majority feel abortion should be legal but with restrictions, with 56% saying the timing in the pregnancy should matter with regard to legality.

Based on those numbers, I suspect that within five years a majority of Americans will be living under abortion policies that maintain legal access, but have some restriction starting in the 12-15 week range.

That would be an accurate reflection of how Americans feel about abortion. And if it’s something we achieve, if we manage to get there by letting people in places like Kansas have their say, either at the ballot box or through their legislatures, it will, again, be the outcome the Supreme Court gave us.

In Dobbs, the court didn’t act against abortion. It acted against a previous court that, with Roe v. Wade, took our ability to govern ourselves (at least when it comes to abortion) away from us.

Now empowered, the people of Kansas spoke, and that’s just the beginning.

The elation pro-choice folks are feeling now over the Kansas vote will almost certainly be dashed upon the rocks of some other political outcome, in some other jurisdiction, in the future. The pro-lifers certainly have some victories in front of them, too.

That’s democracy.

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It’s hard.

It’s also better than judges deciding what the law will be for us.

Opinion by Rob Port
Rob Port is a news reporter, columnist, and podcast host for the Forum News Service. He has an extensive background in investigations and public records. He has covered political events in North Dakota and the upper Midwest for two decades. Reach him at rport@forumcomm.com. Click here to subscribe to his Plain Talk podcast.
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