Abortion opponents in Kansas have tried to restrict the practice through statute, only to be blocked by naked judicial activism from a state supreme court intent on magicking a right to abortion into a document that contains no such thing or anything that might plausibly be construed as such a thing. Faced with might-makes-right politics from a lawless court, abortion opponents have stuck by the rule of law and are now advancing a constitutional amendment that would make it abundantly and redundantly clear that the state constitution does not remove the power of the state’s lawmaking body to make laws touching abortion. Governor Laura Kelly, a Democrat, declared that this threatens to return Kansas “to the Dark Ages.”
Funny kind of dark age, this.
There are a few genuine advocates of a dark-ages mode of life. In the Western world, for example, there are a few extremist environmentalists (by no means representing the main stream of the environmental movement) who advocate a return to a pre-industrial way of life, though they rarely speak very openly about what that would imply for political rights — if you believe that you can enjoy 21st-century liberty and democracy under a 15th-century standard of material and technological life, you have not thought through that carefully enough. In the Islamic world, likewise, there are a few extremist groups and sects that have pronounced dark-ages tendencies when it comes to culture. Some of our pro-abortion friends have been known to describe abortion opponents as “Taliban Christians” and the like — meaning anti-modernists and reactionaries. But being American progressives and therefore predictably parochial, they remain blissfully ignorant of the fact that Islamic law takes a considerably more liberal view of abortion relative to Catholic teaching or to the positions typical of anti-abortion American evangelicals. (As among Christians, there is considerable sect-by-sect variation.) And so it is worth keeping in mind that both the Western proponents of anti-modern primitivism and the would-be fathers of a revived Islamic caliphate both typically take a view of abortion that is closer to that of Governor Kelly, Planned Parenthood, and the rest of the butchers’ guild.
In Kansas, the opponents of abortion have gone through the democratic process to pursue their goals and continue to rely on that process; their opponents, in contrast, have consulted the esoteric scrolls and from them decocted a mandate, previously invisible to all readers of the 19th-century document, that just happens to align with their preferences. Abortion opponents make a straightforward human-rights argument: What is in question here is by any biological definition a human organism at its earliest stages of development; their opponents, in contrast, offer metaphysical speculation about “personhood” that is remarkably similar to the debates about “ensoulment” conducted in the Middle Ages.
Abortion opponents would amend the law to prohibit the dismemberment of unborn human beings in most circumstances; Governor Kelly, speaking for the abortion-rights party, argues that to do so would be . . . bad for the state’s business climate. Restrictions on abortion would “make companies think twice about coming here.” The stupidity of that claim is truly shocking, even in a politician. One need not agree with the anti-abortion position to understand the anti-abortion position, i.e., that abortion represents the immoral taking of innocent human lives by the thousands and millions. It takes a special kind of moral illiteracy to offer as a counterargument: “Well, if you say so, but it’s good for business.” When Kansas governor Samuel Medary vetoed the bill prohibiting slavery in Kansas, he, too, argued that it would be bad for business, that entrepreneurs might look askance at a regime under which “any particular species of property or ownership had been prohibited.” Kansas lawmakers, to their everlasting credit, overrode his veto.
The question before us — in Kansas, in the United States, and in much of the world — is whether and under what circumstances we should legally permit the violent taking of the lives of vulnerable human beings at the earliest stages of their human development. Governor Kelly et al. are willing to abuse the judicial power to undermine the rule of law so that such killing may continue to be permitted because, they say, prohibiting such killing might be, under some hypothetical circumstance, bad for business.
There is no reason to doubt Governor Kelly’s sincerity. Her allegiance to this brutality is authentic and absolute, as it is with millions of Americans. And so, in that sense, her concern is misplaced.
These are the Dark Ages.