The South Wind Women’s Clinic in Wichita may offer a place for women to receive abortion care, but anti-choice legislators in the state are hoping to impose new restrictions on the procedure. Both the state House and Senate have passed a bill that would define life as beginning at fertilization, and anti-choice Governor Sam Brownback is expected to sign it into law.
The bill does more than include language about when life begins. It would also mandate what information clinics must give women about abortion risks—including the medically inaccurate claim of a possible link between breast cancer and abortion—and fetal development; prohibit clinic employees from providing sex education in schools; ban terminations performed solely because of the sex of the fetus; and prohibit the use of tax credits, tax preferences, and public funds for abortion services, as well as prevent public health-care services provided by the state from being used in any way to carry out abortions.
Removing the tax benefits would result in tax increases not just for abortion providers but also for women and their families; and terminations performed to save the woman’s life would not be considered a deductible cost, according to Elise Higgins, the Kansas coordinator for the National Organization for Women. Higgins also raised concerns about the requirement that women be given medically false information from their doctors: “It’s an obvious intrusion into the doctor-patient relationship by making them get this inaccurate information.”
According to Elizabeth Nash of the nonpartisan Guttmacher Institute, seven states—Arkansas, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, North Dakota, and Ohio—already use language stating that life begins at fertilization. If Kansas does adopt such language, it will not take precedence over the existing state law that prohibits most abortions after the 22nd week of pregnancy. But, Nash said, “It’s a statement of intent and it’s a pretty strong statement. … Should the U.S. Supreme Court overturn Roe v. Wade or should the court come to some different conclusion, the state legislature would be ready, willing and able to ban abortions.”
Kansas’s assault on choice is just the latest draconian measure to be considered this year. If this trend continues, we could soon be looking at a country divided into “safe” states for reproductive health care and “unsafe” states—just as it was over forty years ago, before Roe.
Sarah's first book, Generation Roe: Inside the Future of the Pro-Choice Movement, will be out March 2013. For more information, follow her on Twitter @saraherdreich, or check out saraherdreich.com.