by Joe Bollig
TOPEKA — Kansas legislators will reconvene on May 21, seeking to do what can be done in one day to bring the pandemic-abbreviated 2020 session to a close.
But it’s increasingly unlikely that critical legislation sought by the Kansas Catholic Conference and the state’s Catholic bishops will be brought up again.
The top legislative priorities for the conference and the bishops were passage of “Value Them Both” legislation and Medicaid expansion — support for the second dependent on the passage of the first.
The “Value Them Both” legislation was introduced to reverse the overreaching April 2019 Kansas Supreme Court ruling in “Hodes & Nauser v. Schmidt,” in which the court discovered a “right to abortion” in the 1859 Kansas constitution.
The legislation called for a vote during August’s primary election on whether or not to amend the Kansas Constitution to nullify the high court’s ruling.
“Value Them Both” overwhelmingly passed in the Senate 28 – 12 but fell four votes short in the House, 80 – 43.
“The ‘Value Them Both’ amendment would put us back to where we were before the ruling when Kansans, through their elected officials, could pass common-sense laws that help protect women and their babies,” said Debra Niesen, lead consultant for the pro-life office of the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas.
The Kansas Supreme Court’s “Hodes” ruling puts all the state’s pro-life laws at risk of being overturned, said Niesen. Not only could the state see unlimited and unregulated abortion, but also taxpayer-funded abortion.
Chuck Weber, executive director of the Kansas Catholic Conference, said “Value Them Both” and Medicaid expansion were inextricably linked.
“There is a direct connection between ‘Value Them Both’ and Medicaid expansion,” said Weber. “[The link] was created by the Kansas Supreme Court in their ‘Hodes’ ruling. The foundation and justification of the ‘Hodes’ ruling is a series of other state cases that allow and promote either Medicaid-funded abortions or taxpayer-funded abortions.
“If Medicaid expansion passes without ‘Value Them Both,’ it is a virtual certainty that Kansas taxpayers will be paying for abortions. . . . The Catholic bishops of Kansas support health care access for the poor, but not at the expense of the preborn. That’s why we’ve been adamant that the Legislature must approve ‘Value Them Both’ before passing Medicaid expansion.”
Despite the failure of “Value Them Both” passage during the 2020 session, both Niesen and Weber vow that the issue is not going away. Efforts to pass an amendment to return the state constitution to a pre-“Hodes” ruling mode will continue.
Both Niesen and Weber urged Catholics to contact their legislators to express their support for the “Value Them Both” bill and opposition to any legislation that would result in taxpayer-funded abortion.
Who voted ‘no’
Kansas representatives and senators from districts in the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas who voted “no” to the “Value Them Both” bill are listed below. The bill would have allowed citizens to vote on a state constitutional amendment to reverse a Kansas Supreme Court ruling that found a “right to abortion” in the 1859 Kansas constitution.
Mike Amyx, (Lawrence)
Barbara Ballard (Lawrence)
David Benson (Overland Park)
Tom Burroughs (Kansas City, Kansas)
Stephanie Clayton (Leawood; Overland Park; Prairie Village)
Pam Curtis (Kansas City, Kansas)
Stan Frownfelter (Kansas City, Kansas)
Jim Gartner (Topeka)
Broderick Henderson (Kansas City, Kansas)
Dennis Highberger (Lawrence)
Cindy Holscher (Olathe)
Eileen Horn (Lawrence)
Jan Kessinger (Leawood; Overland Park)
Annie Kuether (Topeka)
Nancy Lusk (Overland Park)
Cindy Neighbor (Shawnee)
Jarrod Ousley (Merriam; Mission; Overland Park)
Bill Pannbacker (Marysville; Summerfield; Blue Rapids)
Brett Parker (Overland Park)
Jeff Pittman (Leavenworth)
Louis Ruis (Kansas City, Kansas)
Jerry Stogsdill (Prairie Village)
Freda Warfield (Topeka)
Virgil Weigel (Topeka)
Valdenia Winn (Kansas City, Kansas)
Kathy Wolfe Moore (Kansas City, Kansas)
Brandon Woodard (Lenexa; Olathe)
Rui Xu (Mission; Prairie Village)
Barbara Bollier (Mission Hills)
Marci Francisco (Lawrence)
David Haley (Kansas City, Kansas)
Anthony Hensley (Topeka)
Tom Holland (Baldwin City)
Vic Miller (Topeka)
Pat Pettey (Kansas City. Kansas)
John Skubal (Overland Park)
Dinah Sykes (Lenexa; Olathe; Overland Park; Shawnee)