Kansas has a history of relative reproductive freedom, too, and related turmoil. The Wichita clinic of George Tiller, one of the nation’s few physicians who performed rare third-trimester abortions, was pipe-bombed in 1986. Anti-abortion zealots from across the country descended on Dr. Tiller’s clinic with disruptive mass protests during the summer of 1991. He survived being shot by an anti-abortion fanatic in 1993. In 2009, he was murdered inside his Wichita church.
The clinic where Dr. Tiller worked is now called Trust Women, a stalwart in the national movement for reproductive rights. In this latest struggle, the staff of Trust Women spoke out against the amendment alongside other Kansas voices, including doctors, Christian ministers, small businesses across the state, the state native Janelle Monáe and two Catholic nuns. Legions of volunteer phone-bankers and door-knockers prompted voter action and made clear what was at stake.
But Kansans didn’t do it alone. Support — donations, text messages of solidarity, a letter of encouragement from Gloria Steinem — came from far and wide, boosting the resources and morale of a place often stereotyped as a conservative monolith and presumed a pointless investment for Democratic campaigns.
The most dismal aspect of our political climate is the ease with which many liberals and progressives dismiss and disdain whole states and regions — as though every Kentucky flood victim voted for Mitch McConnell, as though ideology should be a litmus test for assistance amid acute suffering, as though such places are undeserving charity cases rather than rural landscapes from which resources are extracted to make possible the lives of urban dwellers who sit in judgment.
Yet, somehow again with Tuesday’s vote in Kansas, not this time. In many ways, across state and even party lines, we did it together.
There is no other way.
All reasonable Americans must plant ourselves in a long row and lock arms against the terrible wind from the far right. As we brace together for this post-Roe season, take heart: In the first battle, Kansas held the line.
Sarah Smarsh is the author of “Heartland: A Memoir of Working Hard and Being Broke in the Richest Country on Earth.”