Kansas City Star. January 15, 2023.
Editorial: Kansas Republicans crank up violent antiabortion rhetoric again. Will they ever listen?
Kansans have sent a consistent message to politicians in recent years: They want a government that rejects extremism. Results, not shrieking bluster. Policies that keep the schools open, pave the roads and shore up the foster care system. Period, end of sentence.
That demand for radical moderation is why middle-of-the-road Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly won reelection by just a little more than 2% of the vote — about the same margin firebrand GOP Attorney General Kris Kobach squeaked by his unknown challenger Chris Mann with. But when it comes to the right of women, along with their families and their doctors, to make the most personal decisions about reproductive health care, voters in the state practically shouted last year.
When the intentionally confusing “Value Them Both” amendment appeared on the August ballot, Kansans overwhelmingly rejected right-wing lawmakers’ attempt to clear the stage for further draconian limitations on abortion. That’s not the state’s role — so said Kansas.
So why, then, are some of the loudest voices in Topeka again declaring war on reproductive rights — just months after voters rejected the Legislature’s power grab and also gave another term to a governor who supports individuals’ right to choose?
And why are they taking up that fight with language that’s hyperbolic at best and flat-out false at worst, to prop up their already-unpopular agenda?
On Tuesday, Republican Kansas Senate President Ty Masterson claimed the state might soon see “unregulated abortion up to and, in some cases you see around the country, after birth,” according to the nonprofit Kansas Reflector. Referring to the state Supreme Court’s 2019 Hodes decision finding the right to abortion is protected by the Kansas Constitution, he warned darkly: “We have the potential of that. All our commonsense restrictions are under attack.” “
All our restrictions” is right — because Kansas is far from being the Wild West of reproductive freedom. In fact, it has some of the tightest abortion laws in the nation already in effect:
▪ Abortions after 22 weeks of gestation are banned unless the life of the mother is in danger.
▪ Government insurance can’t be used for abortion, and private insurance for the procedure is regulated.
▪ Minors must get the consent of parents, a legal guardian or a judge before getting an abortion.
▪ Patients must sign a consent form at least 24 hours before an abortion is performed.
But perhaps the most important and “commonsense” truth in this disingenuous debate is one that especially women who have been pregnant understand: The idea that abortions are performed wantonly and on demand for the simple purpose of birth control is almost entirely fiction.
“The fact is that in Kansas, no abortions are provided after the legal limit of 22 weeks, said Zack Gingrich-Gaylord, communications director for Trust Women, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that operates clinics in Wichita and Oklahoma. “Assertions otherwise are not grounded in medicine or reality, and have the potential to stigmatize families who may have experienced difficult pregnancies.”
Families who become aware of severe later-term complications with wanted pregnancies often face heart-wrenching decisions involving severe medical anomalies that can’t be corrected, or when a mother can’t survive delivery. Nobody decides to undergo such a difficult procedure on a whim.
And luckily, very few have to make such a decision. Data from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment shows that not one “late-term” abortion has been performed in Kansas since Hodes.
Scary rhetoric about “dismemberment” and the supposed killing of viable fetuses after birth gives pause to the most thoughtful abortion opponents. When The Star ran a guest commentary a few years ago characterizing reproductive choice as “murder” and the “culture of death,” one prominent pro-life activist contacted the editorial board to express chagrin over its hyperbole: “That doesn’t work in our favor over the long run.”
Antiabortion absolutists may want to muddy the waters with imprecise, emotional language that erases the complicated choices that human biology sometimes dictate — but that’s no way to legislate. “We urge lawmakers to do the basic work of grounding their statements in widely available and accurate medical information,” said Gingrich-Gaylord. “Anything less does a disservice to their constituents.”
We urge Republicans in the Legislature: Use your supermajority to enact laws that serve Kansans’ interests. And also, read the room. That doesn’t mean spending yet another session trying to nullify basic rights the people have told you aren’t yours to take away.
Topeka Capital-Journal. January 13, 2023.
Editorial: Why do Kansas legislators insert themselves into talks between doctors and patients?
We have a question for Sen. Mark Steffen: Why do you feel the need to continually wade into medical areas outside your expertise?
Steffen is an anesthesiologist from Hutchinson.
During the coronavirus pandemic, Steffen pushed an anti-vaccination agenda and promoted the use of Ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine to treat COVID-19 despite the greater medical and scientific communities resoundingly disagreeing.
Now he and fellow Sen. Mike Thompson, both Republicans, recently introduced Senate Bill 12, which would ban doctors from performing gender reassignment surgery or providing hormone replacement therapy for those age 21 and younger.
The Topeka Capital-Journal’s Andrew Bahl reports that under this bill, if a doctor provides those services they could be charged with a felony and also would be judged to be in violation of the Healing Arts Act, which could result in the loss of their medical license.
The last time we checked, people don’t go to anesthesiologists for gender-confirming care. That would be like seeing a psychiatrist to treat heart disease. They might know more than a layperson, but they’re out of their depth.
They certainly don’t go to legislators for medical advice. So why are legislators trying to set medical policy for Kansas as a whole?
Can we please leave that to the Healing Arts Board, Kansas Department of Health and Environment, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and other agencies who have experts to assist with these matters?
From where we stand, this bill crosses a line we shouldn’t.
Medicine, like life, is complicated. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all way to offer quality care.
This issue alone is deeply complex and requires sensitivity, understanding and care.
This bill doesn’t seem to take that into account. Can we really regulate health care for 18-year-olds who are legal adults? Better yet, should we?
What if a person moves to Kansas after starting one of these treatments? What if someone undergoing these treatments gets in an accident while visiting our state and needs specific care? We don’t want to handcuff a doctor from their Hippocratic Oath because they fear losing their license.
We also don’t want to see Kansans denied access to care they may need.
It’s interesting that during the thick of the pandemic, Sen. Steffen felt the need to keep the government out of health care. Now, he seems to feel the opposite. Why?
Let’s keep health care between a doctor and a patient.