I work for Kansas NOW. Our mission encompasses a broad expanse of issues linked to equality and justice. In Kansas, equality of opportunity and social supports are currently being eliminated through a multitude of administrative and legislative maneuverings and measures via the leadership of Governor Brownback. The vast array and sheer volume of the changes that are being attempted and implemented in this state could make it difficult to prioritize where time, energy and resources of a small nonprofit should be spent.
However, as my organization looks ahead to 2012, we don’t need a crystal ball to tell us where a great deal of our time, energy and resources will be spent. My organization stands in support of women’s reproductive rights, which means much of our prioritizing will be done for us. The 2012 Kansas Legislature will be introducing another slew of abortion restrictions.
These may include expansion of the already existing religious “conscience clause”. Like the failed Personhood Ballot measure in Mississippi (which was voted down) an expansion to the Kansas Right of Conscience could reach far beyond the medical procedure of abortion. Such legislation could affect access to many common medications and medical procedures. The medications range from oral contraception and IUD’s to Viagra and procedures such as vasectomies, surrogate motherhood and in vitro fertilization. It could also be interpreted to deny lifesaving abortions, which is currently part of Federal Medicaid requirements. This opens up possibilities for further litigation at taxpayer expense.
We also expect the pursuit of “tax code legislation” aimed at nonprofit organizations that advocate for or even present abortion as an option. We believe it will be similar to what has recently been blocked in an Arizona court.
As I mentioned, a piece of our organizational mission is advancing reproductive freedom. These days, it’s not so much advancing, as it is defending. Right now, we are defending something that barely exists within our state. There are no abortion clinics in Wichita and just three in the Kansas City area. Kansas is a state of 82,282 square miles. Why is the Kansas legislature focused upon three small medical clinics within these 82,282 miles? Why will legislative time, energy and resources be spent on this during difficult economic times?
Last session, six different reproductive health restrictions were introduced, including the de-funding of Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri’s family planning services. Five of the measures passed and three of the five are currently in the midst of litigation. It is estimated that current court proceedings have cost Kansas taxpayers $476,000. This should be considered just the tip of the monetary iceberg. In these cases, witnesses have not yet been deposed, motions are being filed, the system is in motion and court cases take time.
In 2012, abortion legislation will continue to be sponsored by legislators. Committees will hear these bills and votes will be cast. The large anti-choice majority will act as a rubber stamp for this entire process. These unconstitutional bills will be presented to Governor Brownback and he will sign them. In doing so, he will also be signing his name on the check to the lawyers that will be needed to defend these laws in court.
Our history with former Kansas Attorney General Phill Kline shows us the longevity in these abortion wars. He is still costing Kansas taxpayers money a decade later. As of April, taxpayers had spent $400,000 for his defense surrounding his alleged misconduct in his pursuit of abortion doctors in Kansas. Not to mention the $350,000 settlement paid to settle a sex discrimination suit, but that’s another matter.
How much the citizens of Kansas are willing to shell out remains to be seen. The extent of their support for ideological candidates has had its limits in the past. While I remain ever-hopeful that sanity will eventually prevail within the state, I’m just not quite sure how much damage will be done before Kansans demand a change of course. Until then, our elected oppressors will no doubt continue to spend state time, energy and resources toward the never-ending pursuit of being the first state in the union to eliminate abortion through the eradication of access. Meanwhile, during the course of this process, they are ensuring that the taxpayers of Kansas will be saddled with a substantial ideological debt.