This Kansas Bill Would Overturn Abortion Protections in the State
Pro-choice advocates and women’s groups in Kansas are rallying against two concurrent bills that propose an amendment to overturn the Kansas Supreme Court’s April 2019 decision protecting abortion rights in the state. The proposed amendment passed 28-12 in the State Senate on January 29. Now, two-thirds of the Kansas House of Representatives, in which Republicans hold an 84-41 advantage, must vote on the amendment before it is put on a statewide ballot in August.
In a press conference the day after the Senate vote, Democratic Governor Laura Kelly called the amendment a threat to reproductive rights in the state. “I fear for a future in which the Legislature chooses to stand between a woman and her doctor,” she said. “This would throw the state back into the Dark Ages.”
Reproductive rights groups say the amendment would endanger Kansans’ right to have an abortion in the state. Accessing reproductive health care in Kansas is already severely restricted for much of the state. According to the Guttmacher Institute, as of 2017, only four facilities provided abortion in Kansas, which meant 98% of Kansas counties, in which 61% of Kansas women lived, had no clinic nearby.
What’s more, many patients travel to Kansas for abortion services from neighboring states where abortion access is even more restricted. Julie Burkhart, the founder and CEO of the Trust Women Foundation, told Supermajority News that this the case for the majority of patients at Trust Women’s Wichita clinic, who often have to travel or take off from work to get to their appointments as well.
The proposed Kansas amendment is one of several measures in states across the United States aimed at challenging the right to access reproductive health care. Burkhart says the movement to pass this amendment in Kansas could be a sign of things to come in other states. “Now that we have a constitutional provision for abortion care, it’s absolutely critical to look at what is on the line, especially in southern states,” she said. “It makes the state of Kansas even more critical.”
If the amendment passes the House, it will then be on the statewide ballot during the Kansas primary, rather than the general election, and “voter turnout in the primary is not as high as voter turnout in the general [election],” Burkhart pointed out.
In both her testimony before the Kansas Senate and an op-ed in The Wichita Eagle, Burkhart urged lawmakers to consider the realities of the lives of women seeking abortion care in the state, including the fact that 70 percent of the patients at Trust Women’s clinic already have children. “They are already mothers. They are already taking care of their kids,” she said. “What our doctors hear from clients is ‘I am a mom already. I can’t continue this pregnancy right now. I want to give the children that I have the best of me.”