Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The State of Abortion Rights in Kansas

Written by Diane Wahto

The Kansas Legislature joined several other states in the late 1960s and early 1970s in loosening restrictions on abortion. However, by May 5, 2010, when the override vote of Gov. Mark Parkinson’s veto of substitute HB 2115 failed by one vote, anti-choice Kansas legislators and groups were already looking to the 2011 legislative session. It was then that they were counting on getting enough anti-choice lawmakers on board to pass the restrictive law with a certain guarantee that an anti-choice governor would sign the law.

Thanks to discontent with government, fueled by the misinformed, lying, and outright racist Tea Party activists and right-wing media pundits, Republicans did indeed prevail on Nov. 2, 2010, around the country and in the State of Kansas. Unfortunately, these aren’t moderate Republicans like Bill Graves and Mike Hayden, governors who trusted women to make the right choice about their own reproduction. No, these are Republicans from the far right, anti-woman, anti-tax, anti-good government wing of the party. These are Republicans, such as Kris Kobach, the incoming Secretary of State, who want to make sure every voter has an ID in order to vote. This despite the cost of such a venture and despite the burden it places on people without a car or a driver’s license who would have to pay to acquire such an ID. This despite the cost to the state of any potential lawsuits that would arise against this policy. This despite the fact that there have been no problems with voter fraud in Kansas.

Apply this line of reasoning, making assumptions that something needs fixing when it’s not broken, to physicians who perform late-term abortions. The abortion restrictions such as those in HB 2115 assume that physicians don’t follow the law governing late-term abortions in Kansas.

HB 2115 would have required abortion providers to supply the Kansas Department of Health and Environment with the exact medical diagnosis that formed the basis for the abortion. The bill also would have required the Kansas Board of Healing Arts to revoke the license of any doctor found in violation of the late-term abortion laws. Additionally, under the law, a woman, her husband, or her parents, if she was a minor, could have sued a provider if any one of these people thought a late-term abortion was performed illegally.

As a result of this law, women would have lost their privacy rights, and doctors would have been under a constant threat of reprisals from anti-choice zealots who would have pressured patients to sue doctors.

Now that Kansas is dominated by right-wing, anti-choice legislators, and a governor who thinks zygotes talk to him, who knows what will happen to abortion rights in this state?
Mary Kay Culp, executive director of Kansans for Life, an anti-choice lobbying group, said that KFL members have already started discussing what goals it will pursue in the next legislative session. In the past, even though both the House and Senate have passed bills restricting late-term abortions, these bills have been vetoed by Democratic governors. Now, no such safety net is in place.

Culp was quoted in a Nov. 3, 2010, Wichita Eagle article, written by Jeannine Koranda: “It is nice to know that when a [restrictive abortion] bill gets to Sen. Brownback's desk, it will get signed.”

Republicans will have a 31-9 majority in the Senate and a 92-33 majority in the House. Given that most of those Republicans are anti-choice, pro-choice activists in Kansas have their work cut out for them. The State of Kansas might find itself in a costly legal battle to secure abortion rights if the lawmakers go too far in curtailing those rights. And, once again, women will find themselves facing the prospect of being unable to exercise their power to make choices about their bodies.