Kansas Politicians Disgrace the Legislative Process


When anti-choice politicians can directly interfere with a woman’s right to have an abortion, they do; parental consent laws, laws which dictate when a woman can have an abortion, and, in some cases, waiting periods may all make it impossible for a woman to have an abortion. Failing these tactics, opponents of abortion seek to exert their influence over the experience of the abortion. Their intent is to shame and intimidate women—to let them know that while what they’re doing is legal, it’s very wrong. In a recently passed bill in Kansas, the rebuking of women comes from the doctor him or herself.

Senate Bill 218 places further restrictions on late-term abortions, but also includes the provision that any woman seeking an abortion must be told at least 24 hours beforehand that “The abortion will terminate the life of a whole, separate, unique, living human being.”

There are many ways in which a mandated statement like this is inappropriate. It codifies a fringe view: that an embryo or a fetus is a living thing having, apparently, nothing to do with the body in which it’s being carried. It’s profoundly inconsistent to have such a statement on the books—one that equates abortion with murder—while abortion is legal. This line in the bill makes it impossible to take any part of the bill seriously.

But most abhorrent is the effort to put words in doctors’ mouths. The relationship between a woman and her doctor is an important one. For women whose families or friends don’t support her choice, her doctor may be the only person she feels she can trust, and perhaps the only one who gives her strictly medical, non-politicized facts about the procedure. When that doctor is then required to tell her, a day before the abortion, that she is about to “terminate the life of a whole, separate, unique, living human being,” the doctor-patient relationship, which is professional but also emotionally vital, is undermined.

The bill’s proponents claim that women having abortions don’t really know what they’re doing:

They say they are hearing from women who say they consented to having abortions after being told the fetus was a mass of tissue.

Did these women think they were getting their tonsils out? Is the Kansas Senate really implying that pregnant women don’t understand the significance of an abortion?

In what could be an argument for the other side, the executive director of the Kansas Catholic Conference emphasizes the idea that women are ignorant of the implications of an abortion:

“Our view is that giving women such medically false information is profoundly insensitive to women. Women should be fully informed, they should be given medically accurate information as they would be in the case of any other medical procedure.”

It takes a special kind of arrogance for a person to turn a religious view into a critique of medicine. The statement in the bill could be describing a person, a dog, or a fish, but not a fetus. And the insistence that this bill is for women’s own good is so dishonest that I wonder how these people put up with themselves.

A woman goes to a doctor to have an abortion because she’s fully aware that the fetus inside her will develop into a baby, and she has decided that she doesn’t want to give birth to that baby. If she didn’t understand that, she wouldn’t be at the clinic.

 

Opponents of the bill in the Senate point to specific cases, such as fetal malformation, to make their point that the bill is insensitive and damaging. But will anyone stand up and say that it’s offensive to all women seeking abortions, and to all women, period, to say that we just don’t understand abortion?

If this Senate bill becomes law, anti-choice virulence is not only in the political climate or on the sidewalk outside the clinic—it has entered the supposedly neutral examining room. It has, quite literally, become part of the doctor-patient relationship. Governor Sebelius has the chance to veto this bill, and let’s hope she does.

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