The Truth About Value Them Both

by Fr. Gary Pennings

There have been a lot of conflicting messages about the Value Them Both (VTB) Amendment on T.V., in social media and even in roadside signs.  If you read the signs or listen to the ads concerning the Value Them Both Amendment you will find that there seem to be two completely different sets of “truths” out there. 

One side says the Amendment must pass to sustain the current laws that regulate abortion and prevent proliferation of the abortion industry in Kansas. The other side says that abortion is already reasonably regulated in Kanas and that passage of the Amendment will ban abortion in Kansas.  So, what is the truth?

In 2019 the Kansas Supreme Court issued a ruling in a case brought by two abortion doctors challenging a 2015 law passed in Kansas that prohibited dismemberment abortions, clinically termed “dilation and evacuation” procedure, the most common form of abortion in the second trimester of pregnancy.  In its decision in this case, the Court held the Kansas Constitution Bill of Rights protects a woman’s access to abortion.  The specifics of the ruling are complicated, and the Court said that regulation of abortion is constitutional only if it passes a test of strict scrutiny and spoke of the need for a compelling government interest and government action that is narrowly tailored to that interest to permit regulation of abortion.  Most non-lawyer types might struggle with the legal jargon, but the Court’s adoption of the most rigorous standard means that it will be far more difficult for the Kansas Legislature to adopt common-sense regulations on abortion.  The key concern, therefore, for those who support passage of the VTB Amendment is the “right” to abortion that the justices somehow discovered in the State Constitution. 

Kansas currently has some common-sense laws that govern abortion in the state.  Those who support VTB say the existing common-sense laws risk being ruled unconstitutional if VTB does not pass, those who oppose VTB say that a constitutional amendment is not necessary, and that the 2019 Kansas Court decision merely enshrined the status quo. 

VTB supporters believe that given the current situation, there is no recourse to prevent unfettered access to abortion other than to amend the state’s Constitution and clarify that no right to abortion exists in the Kansas Constitution and that any regulation of abortion in the state should fall to the people’s elected representatives.  That is basically the position that the U.S. Supreme Court took when it overruled Roe vs. Wade and said that the issue of abortion is a matter for legislators and not for the courts.

Those who oppose VTB argue that existing laws provide sufficient regulation of abortion, and that the Amendment is an attempt to permit future legislation that would completely ban abortion in Kansas.  Many VTB opponents would likely hold the belief that abortion is a constitutionally protected right and not want abortion regulation left in the hands of legislators. 

For a faithful Catholic, the dignity and value of life should guide one’s thought and decision-making process.  Catholics should desire to afford good healthcare for pregnant women, while at the same time respecting the value and inviolability of the new human life that exists once conception has occurred.  Catholics hope that someday even the thought of intentionally killing a new life in the womb would be unthinkable.  But unfortunately, the current culture is quite open to abortion as an option for an unplanned or unwanted pregnancy. 

The VTB amendment, if passed, will not in itself end abortion in Kansas.  If it fails, even abortion advocates (the Guttmacher Institute) admit that abortions in Kansas will markedly increase.  Catholics committed to the cause of life should work to at least limit the number of abortions if we cannot prevent them altogether.  The passage of the VTB amendment appears to be the most prudent way of doing that given the present situation in Kansas.