Cover Story

State-level surge

"State-level surge" Continued...

Issue: "The wonder of life," Jan. 25, 2014

ABOUT 150 MILES SOUTH of Bellevue sits Topeka, the capital of Kansas, a state once known as the home of late-term abortionist George Tiller and pro-abortion Gov. Kathleen Sebelius (now a beleaguered Washington defender of Obamacare). Kansas has become a state with a pro-life legislative supermajority: “It’s unacceptable to be pro-choice in Kansas and win an election,” said Jacob LaTurner, a new Kansas senator who, at 25, is an example of the pro-life youth movement in state capitals.

Pro-life leaders who came to the governor’s mansion for a bill signing in 2011 had never been inside the building before. Now, though, Gov. Sam Brownback stops by unannounced at the Kansans for Life office in Topeka, bringing his own lunch and sitting at a table to chat. Kansans for Life activists move freely about the state Capitol where lawmakers and their staffs know their names. 

KANSANS FOR LIFE: Brownback, surrounded by legislators and abortion opponents, signs a sweeping pro-life bill into law April 19.
Associated Press/Photo by John Hanna
KANSANS FOR LIFE: Brownback, surrounded by legislators and abortion opponents, signs a sweeping pro-life bill into law April 19.
During one recent visit, Kansans for Life senior lobbyist Jeanne Gawdun made unscheduled calls on lawmakers who invited her in to chat. She now has numerous bills to frame, something she never had to do under Sebelius. But state court judges, often selected via secret vote by a lawyer-dominated committee, have halted some laws, so judicial reform has become a pro-life priority in Kansas: Many pro-lifers want the governor to nominate and the Kansas Senate to confirm judges.

One reason for the legislative momentum is evident at the Pregnancy Crisis Center of Wichita. The use of 3-D and 4-D ultrasound imaging is turning once shadowy pictures into something so clear that mothers bond with their babies. At the center a big screen TV, mounted on a wall, faces the ultrasound examining table. 

The window into a womb that was invisible when the Supreme Court legalized abortion in 1973 is transforming the hearts of voters and lawmakers. The technology is becoming more affordable, allowing pregnancy centers like the one in Wichita to purchase laptop-sized machines that can be taken around the city.

Advances are not just changing what we see of the unborn, but what compassionate doctors can do with them. Neonatal intensive care units and in-utero surgery are moving the point of viability outside the womb back from 24 weeks to as early as 20 weeks. Even before delivery, babies are now treated as separate patients: Anesthesia is administered directly to them during surgery performed in the second trimester.

As more people have personalized stories of premature births, the pro-life poll numbers tick up. Today 64 percent say abortion should not be permitted starting in the second three months of a pregnancy, and 63 percent of women support bans on abortion when the unborn can feel pain.

THOSE NUMBERS LEAD to the election of pro-life lawmakers. No one knows that better than long-time Oklahoma activist Tony Lauinger. For decades Lauinger daily drove the 106 miles from his home in Tulsa to the state capital in Oklahoma City when the legislature was in session. He spent most of the 1970s fighting to get a pro-life position into the state’s GOP platform. Then he battled to get lawmakers to act on pro-life issues. Lauinger says “country club, fiscal Republicans” dithered and crumbled whenever crunch time came for pro-life bills during a legislative session. Most bills died in committee.

Tony Lauinger
Associated Press/Photo by Sue Ogrocki
Tony Lauinger
But Lauinger began to understand how the law could serve as a teacher. Realizing the movement did not have the votes to end abortions with one bill, he and other activists started chipping away. This piecemeal tactic educated voters on the realities of abortion. Lauinger compared it to reeling in a big fish with a small line, “jerk too hard and the line breaks and you lose everything.”

When abortion groups fought bills that appeared responsible to the public, such as measures improving the medical standards of clinics, abortion groups claiming they are for women’s health revealed their hypocrisy. Clinic licensing bills would take money from abortionists’ pockets. 

"They've been able to do things in secret for so long. Now the light is shining on them." — Pam Peterson

No issue advanced the pro-life cause more than the 15-year debate over partial-birth abortions. From 1995, when Ohio passed the nation’s first state ban on partial-birth abortions, until 2007, when the Supreme Court reversed lower courts and upheld the ban, pro-abortion advocates battled to preserve this practice through presidential vetoes and lawsuits. This turned off many Americans.

Gallup’s most recent values poll found that 48 percent of Americans call themselves pro-life while 45 percent call themselves “pro-choice.” In 1996, the year of then President Bill Clinton’s first veto of the partial-birth abortion ban, 56 percent said they were “pro-choice” while 33 percent regarded themselves as pro-life.


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