Charlotte's Web Thoughts
Charlotte's Web Thoughts
If Only Dorothy Had a Choice

If Only Dorothy Had a Choice

A landmark victory for abortion rights in Kansas.
Pro-choice supporters in Kansas celebrate defeat of a ballot question that would have banned constitutional protections for abortion. (Dave Kaup // Getty)

Dorothy Gale is an empathetic young girl who finds herself—and her little dog, too—targeted by the wealthy and harassed by law enforcement. Accused of murder, she goes on the lam and wounds up caring for men who have no heart, brains, or nerve. She is thrust into navigating dangerous circumstances beyond her control and only finds resolution when finally offered the choice to click her heels and go back to how things used to be.

She’s also 11. Did you know that? It doesn’t seem quite right, but it’s true. She carries the expectations of an adult, looks around 16 or 17 in the movie, seems intended to be perceived as 13 or 14, but she’s literally 11.

One of the most famous teenagers in American pop culture is actually a younger child being treated like an adult, and a story that revolves around enduring forced circumstances celebrates choice as the payoff.

About 30 months ago, some middled-aged men in Kansas, none of whom have ever had a uterus, introduced a state constitutional amendment in the legislature establishing there is no right to an abortion. What followed was a rollercoaster of protesting and rejections and court jousting and procedural jockeying and, eventually, much later, passage of that resolution with a clear two-thirds majority, then to be put forward before the voters for ratification.

Last night, ratification was on the ballot and the voters finally got to have a direct say on the question, and there’s really no spinning their clear wish: abortion access should be protected.

As of this morning, with 95 percent of precincts reporting, the anti-choice position was losing by more than 17 points.

(image: NYT)

Did I mention this is Kansas?

Kansas, where Trump won by 15% in 2020 and 20% in 2016?

Kansas, where the only Democratic presidential candidate who has won in the past 80 years needed southern bona fides and the greatest political television ad of all-time to do it?

Kansas, where the Republican Party holds supermajorities in both chambers of the state legislature?

That Kansas.

It’s the same state that became a focal point of political commentary in 2004 and something of an avatar for the conservative movement, when Thomas Frank published his NYT-bestselling “What’s the Matter with Kansas?”, an exasperating exercise that essentially said Democrats should focus less on things like abortion and LGBTQ rights and more on kitchen table issues, as though neither of those things aren’t at the very heart of what families talk about around the kitchen table.

Because perception is what drives narrative and Kansas is so easily situated in Americana, absolutely bursting with amber waves of grain, blood red in the nation’s mind, it came as a shock last night when Kansas voters said: actually, we really care about having access to abortion care.

The margin-of-victory is so overwhelming—and the ballot question so clear in language—that it easily hurdles any feeble attempts at spin. There is no way to reasonably argue the result.

Kansas, a solidly Republican state, supports abortion access. That is now simply a hardcore truth any GOP strategist worth their salt is seriously reconciling this morning as the country enters the home stretch of the midterms.

If access to abortion care is a winning issue in Kansas, it’s a winning issue for the country. Democratic leaders—I pray, I hope, I beg—are witnessing this result and making the common sense decision to heavily campaign on abortion access.

Because last night didn’t happen by accident. It’s easy for some to forget that the state has now had TWO strong Democratic women for governors in the past 20 years, including incumbent Laura Kelly, who won in 2018 on the strength of Republican voters disillusioned with party-nominee-slash-certified-clown Kris Kobach and young progressive field organizers who ferociously mobilized.

Kelly won in 2018 because the outreach got done and she had a clear and compelling message to voters. Abortion access won last night because the outreach got done and organizers had a clear and compelling message to voters.

This doesn’t need to be complicated, and yet, some Democrats certainly find a way to put on their insufferable “game theory” hats and talk a lot about kitchen table conversations to which they’ve never actually listened.

If they were to listen, as organizers clearly did, they would understand how horrifying it’s been for voters in Kansas—and across the country—to hear stories about 10 year-old rape survivors traveling out-of-state for life-saving health care, lest they be forced to give birth.

Those journeys don’t end by waking up from a fever dream. They are all too real and the consequences all too terrible.

Democrats need to have a united national message around abortion equity and make it absolutely clear that when it comes to seeking out life-saving health care, there’s no place like home.

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Charlotte's Web Thoughts
Charlotte's Web Thoughts
Charlotte Clymer is a writer and LGBTQ advocate. You've probably seen her on Twitter (@cmclymer). This is the podcast version of her blog "Charlotte's Web Thoughts", which you can subscribe to here: