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February 04th, 2023
L&T Opinions Page

earl wattL&T Publisher Earl Watt


Democracy is a messy business sometimes, and Tuesday’s result in the Value Them Both amendment is proof.

The hardest ballot measures are amendments. And an issue as controversial as abortion just adds fuel to the fire. Am I voting Yes to support abortion or Yes to support an amendment that means abortion is not a right?

If I vote No, is that no to abortions, or no to regulating abortions?

I had comments to me stating they believed Yes was to allow abortion. 

Some organizations take advantage of the confusion and try to muddy the waters.

Such is politics. It could also be that Kansans by a margin of 60 percent to 40 percent actually want abortion to be a constitutional right.

That seems out of step to me, but the proposal was on the ballot, the people of Kansas had a chance to make the decision, and they opted to allow the Kansas Supreme Court decision declaring abortion a constitutional right to stand.

I don’t like it.

But I respect the process. 

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I respect that Kansans had a right to vote on the issue.

From my side, we have work to do. But that work does not include trashing the people who took a different view than me. It doesn’t involve villainizing Kansans.

More surprising to me was the razor-thin margin in Seward County. The initiative only passed in Seward County by 10 votes, 1,328 to 1,318.

Finney County was close, but not as close as Seward. While Seward was 50-50, Finney County voters supported the amendment by 52 percent. So did Ford County.

Barton County supported the amendment 55 percent to 45 percent, and Ellis County voted in favor of the amendment 58 percent to 42 percent.

Why am I looking at those counties? Because they make up the Western Athletic Conference, schools which are very similar to us. Garden City and Dodge City have beef plants nd virtually identical demographics, and Great Bend and Hays are also larger communities in western Kansas.

And of them all, Seward was the least supportive of the amendment and basically split right down the middle on the issue.

From the moment I became publisher of the Southwest Daily Times in 1999, I wanted to use what I had seen before me and not repeat what I believed to be mistakes in the role of the newspaper.

One of those mistakes occurred after the vote on corporate hog farming in the 1990s, before I became publisher. The leadership of the paper was in favor of the proposed corporate hog farming initiative, but when the votes were counted, Seward County rejected the proposal. The publisher at that time wrote a scathing editorial questioning why more people didn’t come out and vote in favor and attacking the opponents of the measure.

I’m not going to do that.

Since I have been publisher, and when Larry Phillips was the managing editor, we made a commitment that the paper would reflect the values of the community, not try to push the community to any particular way of thinking that wasn’t supported by the people.

While the amendment was supported slightly in Seward County, the difference is so slight that it shows Seward County is evenly divided on the contentious issue.

While I personally oppose abortion, I will need to listen to those on the other side, find out what their concerns are, and see what type of modification might receive more support next time.

Many are afraid of an all-out ban of abortion in Kansas. Perhaps an amendment in the future may need to reflect that abortion beyond the first trimester is not a right. It’s not what I would like, but Kansas is not ready to eliminate the possibility that the procedure might be completely banned.

I have always said this is a process. We can’t get from Point A to Point Z overnight.

But the goal should be to reduce the need for abortion in the first place. With better use of contraception, more education and a better understanding of the development of the unborn child, it is my hope that the national trend of fewer abortions will continue despite the increase in Kansas after the 2019 Kansas court ruling.

Richard Nixon told the White House staff, “Only if you have been in the deepest valley can you ever know how magnificent it is to be on the highest mountain.” I’m in that valley today.

But I have work to do. We all do. We also have listening to do. We have to be respectful, and we as Kansans need to show the rest of the nation how to respond when an election is over.


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