Reproductive Health Victory in Kansas? Say that Again?

By Elissa Berger, Advocacy and Policy Counsel, ACLU

The Kansas legislature is not known for being friendly to women’s health. Just last year, the Kansas legislature took away family planning and reproductive health services in an effort to defund Planned Parenthood and prohibited women from purchasing comprehensive health care coverage.

This year, legislators were poised to pass a far-reaching 70-page bill that attacked women’s access to health care in multiple ways. The bill’s various provisions included attempts to force doctors to tell their patients about a non-existent link between breast cancer and abortion (a link that medical experts roundly reject); have public hospitals tell a very sick woman that she should come back when her pregnancy is about to kill her (even if that risks her future fertility or causes organ failure); make a woman pay more in taxes if she had an abortion, no matter what the circumstances; and prevent a nurse who works at a woman’s health center from volunteering an her child’s school.

Today, the Kansas legislature adjourned. This mammoth bill made it through almost every hurdle it needed to, but it did not pass. The extremists failed. In Kansas. People who support women and families, and who think politicians have no place interfering in private decisions, can celebrate today.

Kansas legislators don’t often give us a reason to cheer. But, politicians, even in Kansas, must have recognized how out of touch they would seem in passing such an extreme attack on reproductive health care.

Maybe they noticed that, last November, the people of Mississippi voted overwhelmingly to reject a ballot initiative that would have banned all abortions.

Maybe they read about how angry the people of Virginia became after the Governor of Virginia and the state legislature tried to shove a mandatory ultrasound bill down Virginians’ . . . throats. And they saw how that anger translated into plummeting poll numbers for Virginia politicians.

Most likely they paid attention to the tens of thousands of emails, phone calls, and letters they received from men and women in Kansas and beyond. The people who stood up and said, “stop interfering with our personal, private medical decisions.”

Today, as Kansas politicians officially call an end to legislative business for the year, we can celebrate. But we’ll need to be prepared to speak up again next year. We will need to make sure politicians keep getting our message. We can take a moment to rest up our voices, but we’ll need them again soon enough.

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