KSLeg Poised to Uphold or Strip Women's Rights

This morning the Kansas House of Representatives met to debate SCR 1613, the amendment to the Kansas Constitution to strip women's reproductive rights from our Bill of Rights. They voted to send it to a Final Action vote tomorrow, Friday.

The Debate We Heard Today

There wasn't much debate heard on the floor today: a handful of proponents, led by the bill sponsor, Rep. Erickson (*M:9%), followed by several impassioned arguments by opponents, and one "this doesn't go far enough" proposal by Rep. Garber (*M:5%).

The plan by the extremist conservatives has been to downplay the effects, and the endgame, of this amendment. That's why you hear them saying reasonable-sounding things about protecting women from unsanitary clinic conditions, and making sure patients (and parents) are informed. They raise a concerned voice that the Kansas Supreme Court's finding—that Kansans have a fundamental right to personal autonomy—will endanger young women in our state.

What this means, however, is that they are trying hard to keep under wraps extremist talking points like that of the "abortion industry" that we heard a lot of in the Senate last week. That body had a much wider margin for passage of this amendment, and thus didn't need to censor their most extreme members.

When Rep. Erickson introduced the resolution, she addressed her colleagues who believe this does not go far enough, pleading with them, "That is an argument for another day."

In fact, when Rep. Garber stood up and asked if Rep. Erickson believed life started at conception, she reiterated, "That's not what we are talking about today," clearly hoping he'd just sit down. Instead, Rep. Garber brought an amendment that would turn this into a "personhood" measure, banning abortion, outlawing contraception, and criminalizing miscarriages. Rep. Erickson and the House Leadership hurriedly huddled and then declared his amendment "not germane" so they could shut it down.

Watching their panic would have been amusing, except that the end result, if SCR 1613 passes, will be to open the legal doors to just such a measure down the road.

What they said

These are some of the arguments made today, and why Kansans should reject them.

"This doesn't ban abortion!" This is true solely because Roe v. Wade continues to be the Federal benchmark legalizing abortion. If that were to be overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court, this amendment would clearly allow abortion to be banned in Kansas. 

"Because August is for Kansas issues." When asked why the amendment was slated for the August primary ballot, that was the answer they gave. Also, because "voter fatigue will keep people from voting on the amendment at the end of a long general election ballot." In fact, they want it on the August ballot because only 20% of voters vote then, and usually only the most ardent supporters of extreme measures like this one. In the Senate last week, a measure to move the amendment to November was branded a "poison pill" because it would ensure the amendment's failure if too many Kansans voted on it.

"Kansans should be allowed to vote!" Rep. Erickson argued that this amendment would allow Kansans to vote, through their elected legislators, on abortion regulations. We would like to point out that last year, there were a majority of elected legislators ready to vote for Medicaid Expansion, and yet their Leadership refused to allow a vote. So, in fact, only when it matches their agenda, will they allow the people, through their elected legislators, to vote on an issue.

"We must protect women from unsanitary clinics!" Fortunately as was pointed out by Rep. Carmichael (*M:100%), nothing in the Court's ruling prevents the state from continuing to regulate health care conditions in Kansas, no matter the specialty: dentists, podiatrists, hospitals, and yes, clinics that provide reproductive care and abortions. In fact, before abortion was legalized, abortions were performed in terrible conditions, and some women did suffer terrible results. Legalizing the procedure brought it into the oversight of state government.

Finally, there was many a mention of God. Both proponents, and opponents, mentioned religious belief. Proponents several times talked about the Christian belief in the sanctity of life. An opponent, Rep. Lusk (*M:100%) pointed out the the start of life differs across many major religions, from birth in mainline Judaism, to 120 days in Islamic texts, to several mainline Christian denominations that support a woman's choice. Strongly held religious beliefs vary widely, and our nation was founded on the idea that no one religious tradition would be held above another. How then, can this strongly held belief be legislated, and forced upon Kansas women who do not hold it?

And so, we ask you to once more do more than vote.

Thank you.

- Danny Novo
  Communications Director

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