Not to be outdone by states like North Dakota and Arkansas that have recently passed record-breaking abortion restrictions, Republicans in Kansas are advancing a stringent anti-abortion bill that combines several attacks on reproductive rights into one omnibus measure.
HB 2253 is a 70-page piece of legislation that failed last session, when the Senate was more moderate — but since anti-choice state lawmakers won big victories in the 2012 election, Kansas’ abortion opponents are seizing the opportunity to push it through this year. The House approved the bill by a 92–31 vote on Wednesday afternoon, and it’s also expected to pass in the GOP-controlled Senate, where Republican leaders have promised to “consider the bill quickly.” Republican Gov. Sam Brownback has promised to sign any anti-abortion legislation that reaches his desk.
If the massive bill were to be enacted into law, here’s how HB 2253 would compromise the reproductive rights of the women living in Kansas:
1. Threatens to outlaw all abortions by redefining life in the state Constitution. HB 2253 includes a personhood clause that would define life as beginning at fertilization in Kansas’ Constitution. Women’s health groups call that a “personhood trigger” because, if the Supreme Court ever left abortion rights completely up to the states, it would ensure that abortion would be totally outlawed in Kansas.
2. Instates costly taxes on abortion services and abortion providers. Several provisions in the bill hope to limit abortion by making it more expensive. Under HB 2253, women who get abortions would not be able to deduct the medical procedure as a health care expense on their taxes. Since Kansas law already prevents women from using their own insurance plans to cover abortion services — requiring them to purchase an additional rider — the extra tax provisions would even further complicate reproductive health care in the state. And according to Planned Parenthood officials, enforcing the abortion deduction ban could end up violating medical privacy laws by allowing state auditors to demand access to individuals’ medical records. The bill would also target groups affiliated with abortion providers by preventing them from receiving the same tax breaks that other organizations do.
3. Requires doctors to give women biased information about the dangers of having an abortion. Under the omnibus bill, doctors would be required to provide women with disputed information about abortion risks. Of course, every patient undergoing a medical procedure should be fully educated about the risks — but these kind of “informed consent” sessions are a popular anti-choice tactic specifically designed to dissuade women from terminating a pregnancy. Doctors would need to tell women about a potential link between abortion and breast cancer, even though medical experts don’t believe there’s a connection between the two.
4. Doesn’t include exceptions for victims of rape or incest. One Kansas lawmaker attempted to amend the bill to include a exception for some of Kansas’ existing abortion laws — including the state’s late-term abortion ban, restrictions on insurance coverage of abortion, and a requirement for minors to get parental consent for abortion services — in cases of rape or incest. Women’s health advocates call such policies “common-sense, compassionate exceptions,” particularly for minors who may have become pregnant from incest and can’t get permission from a family member to terminate the pregnancy. But Republicans in the House voted it down on Tuesday, saying they weren’t interested in revisiting the details of the nearly two dozen abortion restrictions that are already on the books.
5. Restricts the use of comprehensive sex ed resources in public schools. The bill contains a clause that prohibits anyone who works for an abortion provider from also working in a school — a provision intended to specifically target Planned Parenthood and prevent the women’s health organization from providing students with any comprehensive sexual health instruction. Originally, it was so broadly worded that it would have also prevented any parent who works for an abortion provider from volunteering at their child’s school. It’s since been tweaked to specify that volunteering is okay.
Kansas’ omnibus bill is similar to a controversial package of abortion restrictions that Michigan lawmakers forced through their lame duck session at the end of last year. Women’s health advocates warn that HB 2253 represents the “biggest threat this year” to Kansas women’s access to reproductive rights.