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What Kansans Can Expect in 2015

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November 13, 2014

We all know how devastating the midterm elections were for certain parts of the country, especially on certain issues. Since I live in Kansas, I am as aware of that as anyone. For reproductive rights, the landscape for the next few years certainly does look bleak here, as it does in many other states. With supportive legislators at an all-time low, and an administration that has abortion restrictions high on its priority list, we can expect many new restrictions to be introduced, and possibly passed, in 2015.

Meanwhile, even as anti-choice politicians were overwhelmingly elected nationwide, ballot initiatives and exit polls show that our nation still has a majority in favor of reproductive rights. Knowing this, it is important that we prepare ourselves for the continued rise of restrictions on abortion access, contraceptive coverage, and LGBTQ+ equality. Not only that, but we can expect economic policy that negatively affects low-income women, people of color, and LGBTQ+ individuals that are most marginalized and harmed by these policies. After all, you have to know your enemy, right?

So let’s take a look at some of the policies we can predict will be introduced in Kansas, and it’s a safe bet that they will be introduced in many other state legislatures as well.

1. 72-hour waiting period.

Much like the bill recently passed in Missouri over the governor’s veto, I expect Kansas won’t be too far behind passing a similar bill. Kansas already has a 24-hour waiting period, which is enough of a struggle for people who have to travel as it is. Increasing that to 72 hours will make it virtually impossible for people from out of town to seek abortion care.

Kansas only has clinics in Kansas City and Wichita, and the vast majority of the state is several hours away from those locations. This has the potential to be the most harmful restriction Kansas could pass.

2. The Heartbeat Bill

In the past, there has been introduced in Kansas a ban on all abortions after the heartbeat can be detected, or around 6 weeks. This has never been passed due to the fact it is clearly unconstitutional, but that hasn’t stopped some other states from passing bills like it. I shouldn’t need to explain why this is a problem, but this bill would ban most abortions in the state.

Many people don’t even know they are pregnant by 6 weeks, let alone have time to make a decision and come up with the money. It is also worth noting that many clinics do not even perform abortions before 5-6 weeks because it is too difficult to read the ultrasound to confirm the pregnancy at that point.

3. Restrictions or Ban on Medication Abortion

Some other states have passed bills requiring doctors to use the outdated FDA suggested dosage for medication abortion, which decreases effectiveness, increases the number of side effects, and makes the medicine more expensive to administer. Medication abortion is an important option for women, and it should be up to the doctors to decide how much medicine is necessary, not our legislators.

Another possibility is that Kansas could opt to try and ban medication abortion entirely. Oklahoma is the only state to have tried this, and courts have prevented enforcement of that measure.

4. Ambulatory Surgical Center Requirement

The most important part of the huge Texas anti-abortion law was not the 20-week ban, it was the requirement that clinics meet the standards of Ambulatory Surgical Centers (ASCs). This requirement forces clinics to not only undergo huge renovations to meet unnecessary standards on closet size and hall width, but it forces the facility’s doctors to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles. Since many hospitals are run by religious organizations, this part of the law was the final nail in the coffin for many of these clinics.

Laws like this, if enacted in states across the country such as Kansas, have the effect of legislating clinics out of existence, reducing already low access even further.

5. Restrictions on Contraceptive Access

Access to contraception is key for people being able to control their reproductive health. As part of the measures in the Affordable Care Act, contraception should be available without any co-pay as part of all qualifying insurance plans. However, as shown in the Hobby Lobby case, there are some limits to that requirement based on the “religious freedom” of employers that are opposed to contraception.

It is possible that Kansas will try to pass a bill allowing any employer to refuse to include contraceptive coverage in insurance plans. This significantly increases the cost of contraception for low-income people and makes it more difficult for them to have control over their bodies and to get the medicine they need.

Also, in some states, bills that place unnecessary age restrictions on emergency contraception, by requiring a prescription for young people under a certain age, have been introduced. I imagine Kansas will want to follow suit. This is especially problematic because of the importance of the timing of taking this medication. After a certain period of time, the effectiveness of this form of contraception drops significantly.

6. LGBTQ+ discrimination bills

During the last legislative session in Kansas, a bill was introduced and passed the Kansas House of Representatives that had the intent of legalizing discrimination against LGBTQ+ individuals. A similar bill is already being brought up in Texas. In the name of “religious freedom,” the bill would allow for employers and business owners to openly discriminate against LGBTQ+ employees and customers. They could refuse service, and essentially this bill would create a legal way to treat someone as a second-class citizen.

This bill faced some serious backlash and did not pass the Senate, but with the demographics of the legislature shifting, it is possible it is brought up again.

 

This list is definitely not comprehensive, and I only mention restrictions that Kansas doesn’t already have. Kansas is already one of the strictest states for restrictions on abortion access, so many laws we already have could be on their way to other states in the next few years. I also did not mention the things we could see making it through the U.S. Congress after the elections.

The important thing is that we expect these bills to be introduced, and be ready to fight them when they are. It will take solidarity and enthusiasm to show our legislators that this isn’t what most of us elected them to do, and that these decisions have a real impact on the citizens of Kansas.

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