Opinion: The new politics of abortion

Photo by Mark Peterson of The New York Times / Anti-abortion demonstrators outside the U.S. Supreme Court on the day it overturned its Roe vs. Wade ruling that protected abortion rights, in Washington, D.C., on June 24, 2022.

Some liberals seemed genuinely surprised by the results of the Kansas referendum on abortion. A reliably Republican state, a sweeping pro-choice victory. Who could have foreseen it?

Others suggested that only the anti-abortion side should be shocked. "The anti-abortion movement has long claimed that voters would reward Republicans for overturning Roe," wrote Slate's Mark Joseph Stern. "They are now discovering how delusional that conviction has always been."

It's true that activists often tend toward unrealistic optimism. But nobody who favored overturning Roe ought to be particularly surprised by the Kansas result. By the margin, maybe - but a Republican state voting to preserve a right to abortion emphasizes what's always been apparent: With the end of Roe, the pro-life movement now has to adapt to the democratic contest that it sought.