Today going forward, I believe we must clarify and expand what life issues should be under the banner of Pro-Life. We must present life in a much broader context. In contrast to most Republicans whose focus is all about the fetus, where Democrats share concern is our belief that the health of the expectant mother is also a life issue. As important life issues go forward through birth, early childcare, and all the way through aging issues as well, the support for key programs leans heavily on Democrats. Take funding of expanded Medicaid as an example where the fight for positive action is overwhelmingly led by Democrats.
Think of all the programs that are key to quality life that we Democrats support, which really make a difference directly for the family involved but also for the larger society as well. Sex education for young adults, prenatal care for expecting mothers (e.g., regular doctor check-ins, vitamins), the Women Infants and Children (WIC) program that provides healthy food and immunizations are just a few examples that make real differences in the lives of Kansans.
Our country’s record on infant mortality (2019 stats show 47 countries or territories with better infant mortality rates than the USA) is embarrassing and needs to be addressed by Republicans and should demand more attention from Democrats. Additionally, there are endless studies that show how important the first three years are in the development of the child’s brain, much of which cannot be corrected in later life. Preschool, quality child care, education in general, and all the challenges that we all face as we grow older, it is we Democrats (although we used to have a lot of Republican friends who were likewise concerned) who are primarily supportive or at least open to more wisely investing in life. And for what it is worth, investing early and wisely will bring dramatic returns over time, including better education results, a healthier society, and a population less dependent on government services.
In addition, we must change how we deal with the Pro-Life/Pro-Choice issue within our own Party. I don’t suggest we should oppose Pro-Choice policies or candidates. I am Pro-Choice and will remain, but politically, we must move towards a bigger tent that includes within our Party folks who are what I call “sane Pro-Life.” Our current Democratic Legislators who are Pro-Life vote consistently against the crazy, unconstitutional Republican ideas as well as support all the other truly Pro-Life programs. Also just a reminder, without a significant number of high quality Pro-Life Democratic Legislators, neither myself or Marvin Barkis would have been Speaker of the Kansas House. With their support, we were able to utilize our elected positions to bring about more positive action for Democratic issues. Bottom line, we should not paint all Pro-Life supporters with one brush.
Texas is currently leading the way in terms of passing extreme restrictions that the majority of Americans see as unacceptable and go too far. And, if we're not smart, compassionate, and strategic, Kansas is at risk for joining the sad momentum against a woman's right to make her own health care decisions.
Not to mention, we're in the midst of a pandemic that has further revealed—and, in fact, amplified—the level of hypocrisy present among the so-called "Pro-Life" party.
The truly Pro-Life position would be to respect and respond to an urgent public health threat through responsible actions that keep more people in our communities alive, which you might think would be an obvious for someone with a staunchly "Pro-Life" position. Instead, folks on that side of the argument seem to be all for freedom of choice, unless you happen to be a woman. People can see through these hypocrisies, and this creates space for Democrats to recognize the nuance of the issue and carve out a principled position that voters can understand and trust.
In the end, when Democrats focus on abortion with in-your-face tactics to defend the right of choice, we lose support for all the other key life issues because we can’t elect enough Democrats. Look at where we are in the current Kansas Legislature. We can’t even protect a Governor Kelly veto without Republican support, which we seldom get. With this broader definition of Pro-Life, we would be in a position of electing Democratic Legislators outside the current seven counties where our two caucuses reside today.
Bottom line, many Republican elected officials are Pro-Life primarily for votes and campaign money. They are almost like “bye, bye fetus, you’re on your own.” We Democrats are clearly the Party that is by far most concerned about life issues. Why not just go public and be the Real Pro-Life Party in Kansas?