Letter to the Times: This is not the American way

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Note: The Lawrence Times runs opinion columns and letters to the Times written by community members with varying perspectives on local issues. These pieces do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Times staff.

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Last month the United States Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, signaling the worst judicial rollback of human rights in this country in my lifetime (I am 70). In timely coordination, the legislature in Kansas has proposed a state constitutional amendment.

From someone who is outside Kansas and cannot vote, may I please still comment? I want to urge everyone to vote “No,” and here’s why.

A “No” will leave the law in Kansas unchanged, and that is a very good thing. Your state Supreme Court issued an opinion in 2019 that protected privacy rights, including a woman’s right to make her own decisions about her body. This decision is in effect an update of Roe protections, with better reasoning and based on 50 years of history living under Roe. It only applies statewide, of course (unlike Roe, a federal decision). But everyone in Kansas should know that it is in fact the best constitutional decision on the right of privacy of any state court in the country, and Kansas citizens should be proud of that fact and should do everything in their power to protect a reasonable, rational, wise and prudent judiciary.

The legislature wants a “Yes” vote, and here’s what that means. First it means more power for them. A “Yes” would override the state Supreme Court decision and its privacy protections. Then, the legislature would take over and decide what rights it will or will not grant to the citizens of Kansas. Please understand this: The legislature will confer — or it will not. This inverts the state Supreme Court decision, which found that privacy rights are pre-existing and inherent in the rights of citizens. The court’s decision anchored privacy rights with others in your bill of rights. But if you vote “yes,” you are renouncing your natural rights, your God-given rights, in favor of only those privacy rights that the legislators of Kansas choose to give you. With all due respect, this is not the American way. 

A word please on the context of this vote: The recent decision to overturn Roe, federally, has set off a frenzy of activity in the states, and as it turns out, in August, Kansas will be going first with a popular vote on the issue. You are in that sense speaking to all Americans, and for all Americans, about whether you want to be, about whether we should be, well into in the 21st century or moving back to the 19th. I believe your legislators are out-of-step with the people of Kansas on this issue, and you should say so.

A note also, if you will permit me, addressing the men of Kansas. I would like to respectfully suggest that while all citizens are equal, we should be especially respectful of women’s views in this matter. And beyond that, all of us might be deferential to the views of women of childbearing age, because this ballot measure is of fundamental importance to their lives, whatever our theoretical theories or philosophies or religious beliefs. Let us be respectful of our young citizens’ rights, as a matter of law, while we continue to debate these issues in the culture. 

In short, I urge everyone who can vote to vote “No.” 

— (Mr.) Jonathan D. Kaufelt, Santa Monica, California

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