When the Supreme Court of the United States in 2022 repealed the constitutional protection for reproductive healthcare, they set in motion a cascade of state laws protecting and banning abortion.

Liberals lamented the decision, while conservatives celebrated. Progressive states worked quickly to protect abortion rights for their citizens, while conservative states enacted laws eliminating almost all abortions.

With the repeal of Roe v. Wade, conservative prayers had finally been answered. Abortion could now be outlawed where conservatives held majorities in their state legislatures.

They were certain their fellow citizens would follow their lead, denying women abortion care.

But then…Kansas. Inspired by SCOTUS’s Dobbs decision, Kansas conservatives ran to the polls asking citizens to pass a new constitutional amendment eliminating abortion care. They lost “bigly.”

Kansans voted 59% to 41% to reject the amendment, keeping abortion legal. The loss sent shockwaves through conservative networks.

Traditionally a solidly red state, Kansas voters resoundingly communicated their deep desire for women to keep reproductive care. It was now evident that conservatives could no longer depend on voters.

They needed a new plan to implement their draconian laws: If you cannot win the public debate — change the rules.

Conservatives are realizing they are losing the public debate on a host of critical issues, including abortion care, racial justice, deconstructing systemic racism, voter rights, LGBTQ equality, global warming, income inequality, workers’ rights, immigration.

Consequently, if conservatives cannot win the public debate on these issues, they must circumvent democratic practices. No longer able to trust that voters will side with them, conservatives will change the rules and/or suppress the vote.

Ohio went to the polls this week. A new conservative initiative was on the ballot to make it harder to amend the state constitution.

According to NBCNEWS, “Issue 1 would raise the threshold of support required to pass state constitutional amendments to 60% instead of a simple majority.” In addition, “(The) ballot measure would also toughen rules for groups trying to place future ballot measures before voters, as they would need to obtain signatures from voters in all of Ohio’s 88 counties, instead of the 44 now required.”

With Republicans holding a majority of the seats in the state legislature, if the measure had passed, it would have ensured abortion care would remain illegal in Ohio. The measure failed by an overwhelming margin, 56.5% to 43.5%.

While these tactics are incredibly exasperating and infuriating, they are tactics the country has seen before. While both parties are guilty of this shameful behavior, conservatives have perfected changing the rules when losing the debate.

Gerrymandering has become both an art and science for conservative lawmakers doing everything they can to maintain power and control. Repealing voters’ rights and making it more difficult to cast a ballot has more to do with squelching opposition votes than any faux concern about voter fraud.

As a Jesus follower, I feel compelled to follow Jesus’ example of standing up to the powerful and empowering the powerless.

Jesus advocated for inclusion, equality, and healthcare. The Gospels are filled with examples of Jesus living and working among the powerless.

When the powerful attempt to control marginalized and underrepresented communities through authoritarian measures, the only way for citizens to fight back is to vote. Ohioans and Kansans did just that. They voted, and their message is clear.

Friends, if the country has a chance at that more perfect union Mr. Jefferson wrote about long ago, then we must engage in the process and vote. We must stand up to authoritarian measures and demand everyone be included and counted.

While democracy is not a perfect form of government, it’s the best we have.

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