A new law that was passed by the Kansas State Senate this week could open the door to redefining the legality of abortions in the state. In addition, it will put into place many new guidelines regarding abortion funding and sex education. Although Democrats have stalled it for a short time by having it sent back to the House for the approval of technical changes, it is expected to clear the House for the final time this week, and Governor Brownback has already stated that he will sign any anti-abortion legislation that is sent his way.
The bill has several key points. First, it defines life as beginning at conception. Secondly, it attempts to prevent taxpayers from inadvertently supporting abortion by banning medical clinics that provide abortions from receiving any type of state funding or benefits, prohibiting organizations that offer abortion services from providing sex education in schools, and restricting women from claiming abortion service related costs as deductions on state income taxes. Finally, it gives specific guidelines regarding what information abortion providers are required to give to patients, prior to performing an abortion.
Let’s take a look at the first point. The Wichita Eagle reports:
The bill at hand, House Bill 2253, makes several changes in state abortion and tax laws, including defining life as beginning at the moment of fertilization…
Here, we run into the first problem with this bill: the idea that a fertilized egg, or zygote, constitutes a human life. While it is undeniable that the cells contained within a zygote are alive, the idea that it is a human being is ludicrous. In no way, other than on the most basic genetic level, does a zygote even resemble a human. In fact, a human embryo is almost indistinguishable from that of many other species until around the fifth or sixth week of pregnancy. Put simply, a zygote is not a human being in the same way that an egg is not a chicken, and an acorn is not a tree.
All of this is not to mention the alarming fact that defining a fertilized egg as a human life opens the door to granting it legal personhood, which would completely redefine the legal status of abortion in the state.
Next, there is the fact that the bill directly promotes false scientific assertions about health risks related to having an abortion.
Another fought-over provision establishes a statutory mandate that abortion doctors must provide controversial medical information to women who are seeking an abortion, specifically of a link between abortion and breast cancer.
This supposed link has been heavily debunked and dismissed. The American Cancer Society’s website cites 3 major studies that found there to be no relationship between abortion and a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer. In addition, they list several expert groups that have issued reports dismissing any alleged correlation between the two. One of the groups, The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists Committee on Gynecologic Practice, even criticized the earlier studies that claimed to have found such a link:
“Early studies of the relationship between prior induced abortion and breast cancer risk were methodologically flawed. More rigorous recent studies demonstrate no causal relationship between induced abortion and a subsequent increase in breast cancer risk.”
The bill also launches an attack on sex education programs in Kansas:
In addition, the bill:
• Prohibits paid agents or volunteers connected to abortion providers – including Planned Parenthood – from providing any information on human sexuality to students in public schools.
To shed some light on the kinds of programs that this part of the bill will eliminate, let’s look at a statement from Planned Parenthood’s website about their educational programs:
PPHS provides free medically accurate, age appropriate, sexuality education presentations and workshops to our communities. Our educators look forward to working with your community group, youth group, faith based organization, human services department, school, or individually.
So, this bill will effectively ban groups like Planned Parenthood from providing FREE sex education in public schools. Here are a few facts to put this into perspective: 1. The Kansas educational system is already strapped for cash. 2. Several studies have shown that comprehensive sex education is effective in reducing teenaged pregnancies. 3. Teenaged pregnancies account for 17% of all abortions in Kansas. At the very least, these facts would seem to suggest that this measure will do nothing to reduce the number of abortions in Kansas, and it could even be argued that it has the potential to have the opposite effect.
Additionally, HB2253 makes no specific exceptions for women who are victims of rape or incest. Although Democrats in the Kansas Senate attempted to insert an amendment that would protect women in those situations, Republicans staunchly opposed it, and it was not included in the changes that were made. One Republican claimed that she opposed the exceptions because they could also affect other abortion laws in Kansas, such as the ban on abortions after 22 weeks. An article from thinkprogress.org, though, explains why this is untrue, and points out that these types of exceptions already have overwhelming support in the U.S.
In fact, such an amendment wouldn’t “undo” state-level abortion restrictions at all. Exceptions in the cases of rape, incest, and preserving the life of the woman are still extremely narrow, and don’t change the fact that restrictions on reproductive care are still imposed on the majority of women. Those small exemptions have become somewhat of a national standard. The federal government, 32 states, and the District of Columbia all offer exceptions in the cases of life endangerment, rape, or incest in their bans on public funding for abortion. Americans also overwhelmingly support abortion access for victims of rape and incest.
In short, HB2253 is a vile piece of legislation that not only has the potential to impact the future legal status of abortions in the state of Kansas, but also promotes unscientific ideals, limits teenagers’ access to comprehensive sex education, and fails to provide protection to women who need it the most. More than any to come before it, this bill makes me ashamed to be a Kansan.