Big-spending abortion backers target Kansas ballot measure, but pro-lifers hope for win

Kevin J. Jones   By Kevin J. Jones for CNA


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Denver Newsroom, Jul 31, 2022 / 04:00 am (CNA).

Wealthy out-of-state donors who back legalized abortion are funding opposition to a Kansas constitutional amendment that would end the state Supreme Court’s ban on abortion restrictions. Backers of the effort expect to be outspent but are confident they will prevail at the ballot box on Tuesday, Aug. 2.

“The abortion industry will outspend us, perhaps 2 to 1 or more, but our most valuable ‘resource’ will be Catholics in the pew,” Chuck Weber of the Kansas Catholic Conference told CNA July 29. “The abortion industry has virtually unlimited money to buy TV ad time, radio, digital, satellite, texting, etc. We are reaching out to parish pro-life coordinators and Knights of Columbus councils, asking them to call everyone and anyone they know to vote ‘yes.’”

The proposed amendment, dubbed the Value Them Both Amendment, says that “because Kansans value both women and children, the constitution of the state of Kansas does not require government funding of abortion and does not create or secure a right to abortion.” It would allow laws regarding abortion “to the extent permitted by the Constitution of the United States.”

Voters will consider the amendment in the Aug. 2 primary election. Early voting began July 13.

In 2019, the Kansas Supreme Court ruled that a woman has a right to an abortion under the state constitution, barring legislators from passing abortion restrictions. The ruling could endanger existing laws, including a ban on abortion 22 weeks or later into pregnancy.

The Value Them Both Association, which supports the amendment, has received close to $6 million this year. Kansans for Constitutional Freedom, foes of the amendment, took in more than $6.5 million.

Pro-abortion ‘grassroots donations’

Both sides have drawn thousands of small donors, though a spokesperson for Kansans for Constitutional Freedom reported a boost in “grassroots donations” after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June, returning abortion restrictions to the states.

The politically influential abortion provider Planned Parenthood is actively opposing the proposed Kansas amendment. Its national political action committee, the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, donated $850,000 to Kansans for Constitutional Freedom. Two Kansas Planned Parenthood affiliates, Planned Parenthood Great Plains and Planned Parenthood Great Plains Votes, gave a combined $492,000.

However, the largest single institutional donation against the amendment came from the Sixteen Thirty Fund, which committed $1.38 million. News outlets including Politico and the New York Times have characterized the fund as a “dark money” group, given its ability to receive undisclosed donations.

The Sixteen Thirty Fund spent more than $410 million on Democratic Party-aligned efforts in the 2020 election. The fund’s president, Amy Kurtz, previously worked in campaign and election strategy for the National Education Association. The chair of the Sixteen Thirty Fund’s board of directors, Raul M. Alvillar, headed the Biden presidential campaign in New Mexico. He is also former national political director for the Democratic National Committee. He previously served in the Obama administration and did some LGBT liaison work for the Obama campaign.

Foes of the Kansas ballot initiative also have $500,000 in support from the Washington, D.C.-based North Fund, which was a major contributor to defeating a late-term abortion ban ballot initiative in neighboring Colorado. The Sixteen Thirty Fund is itself a major donor to the North Fund, according to Politico.

Other institutional donors back the pro-abortion status quo in Kansas. The American Civil Liberties Union gave $250,000 toward that effort, while its state affiliate, the ACLU of Kansas, gave half that — $112,500. For its part, the New York-based Center for Reproductive Rights donated $125,000 to oppose the measure, while NARAL Pro-Choice America gave $100,000.

Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, a New York-based charitable giving advisory and management firm, committed $100,000 to Kansans for Constitutional Freedom. The Wichita-based Trust Women and the Trust Us Justice Fund gave $89,000 in combined donations.

The largest individual donor backing legal abortion is Stacy Schusterman, an heiress philanthropist and energy business executive from Tulsa, Okla., who gave $1 million. Another $250,000 came from Amy and Rob Stavis of New York.

Pro-life donors

State records show the Value Them Both Association has received close to $4.7 million this year. This does not include a major donation from the Susan B. Anthony List, which in June committed $1.3 million, the Kansas Reflector news organization reports. It is apparently the largest out-of-state donation to the pro-life cause.

By comparison, the statewide pro-life organization Kansas for Life has given $325,000. The largest individual donation — $100,000 — comes from former gunpowder company executive J.B. Hodgdon of Shawnee, Kansas, according to CNA’s review of campaign contribution records at the website of the Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission.

The Catholic Church in Kansas has been a major donor to the campaign. The Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas has committed $2.5 million, while the Wichita Diocese has given $551,000. The Salina Diocese has given at least $100,000, while the Kansas Catholic Conference gave at least $275,000.

A few parishes have given major donations. St. Michael the Archangel Catholic Church in Leawood, in the Diocese of Topeka, gave $100,000. Many other Catholic churches and Knights of Columbus councils are among the listed donors, as are Protestant churches. Of these donations, many are under $1,000.

Kansas shouldn’t be an ‘abortion destination’

Weber, the Kansas Catholic Conference executive director, said Catholics think the amendment is an important cause.

“The Catholic Church seeks justice in public policy, no matter the issue. We are proud of the leadership our bishops have demonstrated on the Value Them Both Amendment,” Weber said. “The Catholic Church has always has a target on her back, from the left and right ends of the political spectrum. Without fear or favor, we are proud to advocate for Value Them Both for this issue and a number of other issues.”

Weber added that the Catholic bishops of the United States and of Kansas have said that abortion is the “preeminent issue” of our day.

The constitutional amendment also has the support of the Kansas-Nebraska Convention of Southern Baptists and the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. More than 450 faith leaders have signed a letter backing the Value Them Both campaign, as have more than 250 medical and mental-health professionals.

Webb characterized the amendment as “simply abortion neutral.”

“Passing Value Them Both will level the scales and allow the people of Kansas, through their elected representatives, to set policy on abortion,” he said. “Without Value Them Both, all Kansas laws touching on the question of abortion regulation are ‘presumed unconstitutional’ and will almost certainly be overturned once challenged.”

If the amendment effort fails, Webb predicted, courts will end a ban on government funding for elective abortions and will end laws requiring parental consent for minors to get an abortion.“Already in Kansas, because of the Kansas state Supreme Court ruling, painful and brutal dilation and extraction abortions, also known as ‘live dismemberment abortions,’ are taking place in Kansas at a rate of nine or more per week, according to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment,” Webb told CNA. “Half of all abortions in Kansas now are performed on girls and women from surrounding states. This will certainly increase and make Kansas an abortion destination for the Midwest.”

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    • As a fifth-generation Kansan, I can attest that you are – unfortunately – correct. In the case of the need for the amendment to the state constitution, however, the root problem is the manner in which the members of the Kansas Supreme Court are selected. Until that process changes, more and more problems will arise.

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