Opinion

End of Roe v. Wade ushers in a new Dark Age for Kansas and our country

June 24, 2022 10:06 am

The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision overturning Roe v. Wade means our state and country have entered a new Dark Age, writes opinion editor Clay Wirestone. Here, the Handmaid Coalition of California marches to the California State Capitol during a demonstration. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Welcome to the new Dark Age.

With the U.S. Supreme Court overturning the 49-year-old precedent of Roe v. Wade, Americans and Kansans can no longer depend on our government safeguarding our individual and inalienable rights. We can no longer depend on a commonly agreed upon public policy that respects the rights of women, people of color and the LGBTQ community.

For that matter, we can no longer depend on presidential candidates admitting defeat in a fair and free election. As a majority of Supreme Court justices strip the longstanding guarantee that folks can make up their own minds about terminating a pregnancy, the Jan. 6 committee hearings show that our entire government only survived the 2020 elections by the brave action of a handful of principled government officials.

Our state and nation has entered a dark time, and one with no guaranteed end.

Kansas Republican officials have refused to say whether they plan to support a full, statewide ban on abortion. They are focused instead, they told the Topeka Capital-Journal’s Jason Tidd, on the Aug. 2 constitutional amendment vote that will decide whether they can pass such legislation.

That gives the game away. As I wrote in April, if the amendment passes, these very same officials will support and pass a ban on all abortion in Kansas. There will not be exemptions for rape or incest. The rights of women and others who can get pregnant will be extinguished for the rights of an unborn fetus.

Once children are born, of course, these Republicans will make sure to restrict access to medical insurance and food assistance. If they’re like our U.S. Sen. Roger Marshall, they will threaten to cut off school lunch aid unless schools are able to discriminate against transgender students. And everyone will have unfettered access to high-powered firearms.

The right to life extends only to fetuses and the children of Republicans who express their gender identity in acceptable ways.

The right to life extends only to fetuses and the children of Republicans who express their gender identity in acceptable ways.

– Clay Wirestone

But the Dark Ages needn’t be the end, not for our state or residents.

Historians actually believe the original Dark Ages weren’t as bad as the name implies. Earlier chroniclers revered the Roman Empire as so great and mighty that anything following must have been chaotic and disorderly. In reality, various rulers rose to prominence, along with the church. Monasteries became centers of learning and arts.

In this way, we have our work cut out for us in the years and decades ahead. We won’t be able to depend on officials from Washington, D.C., to safeguard our rights. We will have to safeguard them ourselves, as individuals and communities. Acts of resistance against unjust laws will grow in importance, as those requiring abortion services contend with states that ban them. We will have to look out for one another like never before.

Exactly what that means for each one of us will be different. Some will be called upon to make public stands. Others will do their work more quietly. Still others may believe that they can no longer live and flourish in a Kansas that treats them so shabbily.

We will all have to decide on how best to navigate these changing times.

Our rights, you see, have nothing to do with a court in Washington, D.C. Women and others who can become pregnant have always had the right to choose. They have exercised that right throughout history. People of color have the same rights as everyone else. They have demanded equality since the founding of our country. Gay people and gender noncomforming folks have likewise been here since the beginning, and have always had the same rights as their friends and neighbors. 

As the Declaration of Independence states, “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Governments have recognized those rights at times. During other periods, they have actively fought those who claim and exercise them. Our nation went to war with itself over the ability of one race to enslave another. Yet as laws have changed and policies have shifted, the rights have remained. 

Roe v. Wade is no more. A new Dark Age has arrived. But we can continue to flourish and thrive, lighting the path for one another along the way.

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Clay Wirestone
Clay Wirestone

Clay Wirestone has written columns and edited reporting for newsrooms in Kansas, New Hampshire, Florida and Pennsylvania. He has also fact checked politicians, researched for Larry the Cable Guy, and appeared in PolitiFact, Mental Floss, cnn.com and a host of other publications. Most recently, Clay spent nearly four years at the nonprofit Kansas Action for Children as communications director. Beyond the written word, he has drawn cartoons, hosted podcasts, designed graphics, and moderated debates. Clay graduated from the University of Kansas and lives in Lawrence with his husband and son.

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