A Legislative Showdown Over Abortion in Kansas May Cost KU Med School Its Accreditation, and More


The most sweeping anti-choice bill in the nation, a 68-page monstrosity currently being considered by the Kansas House Federal and State Affairs Committee, is in the midst of a showdown.  Showdowns have been common in Kansas’ past… we are home to Dodge City after all. But this is a different kind of showdown.  It is an abortion showdown. 

Showdowns aren’t commonplace in Kansas abortion politics.  Under Governor Sam Brownback’s watch, abortion bills are met with a rubber stamp of approval.  However, the sweeping nature of this bill with multiple components and complexities has created a potential problem for the largest medical school in Kansas.  KU Medical School has an ob-gyn program and this ob-gyn program must offer their medical students abortion training to keep their accreditation.    

The 68-page Kansas omni-bus abortion bill states “no health care services provided by any state agency, or any employee of a state agency while acting within the scope of such employee’s employment, shall include abortion.” KU Medical School is a State School. The bill raises a very serious concern for the school.  They are concerned enough that they have offered an amendment.  From The Lawrence Journal World:

KU has offered an amendment that would exempt medical residents employed by the KU Medical Center from the prohibition who are being trained “in relevant procedures for such purposes in facilities that are not owned and operated by any agency or authority of the state of Kansas.”

It downright maddening that KU did not come forward and testify in opposition to HB 2598, but it is par for the course in Kansas.  Pro-choice lobbyists in the state house, such as Kansas NOW, ACLU of Kansas and Western-Missouri and Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri, usually find themselves opposing abortion bills on their own.  Organizations, physicians and individuals who may have valid reasons to oppose abortion legislation remain silent, due to perceived public and statehouse backlash.  Fear is legitimized to a certain degree by the terrorist tactics that are employed by the anti-choice organizations who make Kansas a home base.  In a state where the legal practice of medicine can literally get you killed, it casts an ominous presence that even the promise of a “democratic” process cannot dispel. 

It is also important to note that there is more than just KU’s accreditation at risk.  This legislation also poses a risk to the reputation of the institution itself.  The KU Cancer Center has been seeking a designation from the National Cancer Institute (NCI).  The NCI just visited Lawrence, Kansas on a site visit to determine the qualifications of the center.  Once again from the Lawrence Journal World…

“(the designation) would mean more research funding for cancer, and would be a boon for the local economy and for patients seeking better cancer treatments closer to home.”

As this top state university seeks NCI approval, the state legislature is in pursuit of a bill that would not only put their ob-gyn program at risk, but would require physicians to state aloud to women seeking abortions that their abortion will increase their risk of breast cancer, even though that claim is false and directly contradicts findings by NCI on the subject.

Here is a citation taken from Kansas NOW’s testimony in opposition to HB 2598

From the National Cancer Institute:

“In February 2003, the National Cancer Institute (NCI) convened a workshop of over 100 of the world’s leading experts who study pregnancy and breast cancer risk. Workshop participants reviewed existing population-based, clinical, and animal studies on the relationship between pregnancy and breast cancer risk, including studies of induced and spontaneous abortions. They concluded that having an abortion or miscarriage does not increase a woman’s subsequent risk of developing breast cancer.”

Will the Kansas House Federal and State Affairs Committee consider these serious concerns?  Will the abortion bill be voted out of committee as is or will it be amended? 

Perhaps, it would be in the state’s best interest to kill the bill, to save the state’s reputation.  Because, let’s face it… Kansas already has a reputation for being an anti-science state.  Doing such damage to the functioning and reputation of a major state school, all in the pursuit of abortion politics does little to improve this reputation.

What kind of parent would be interested in sinking almost $50,000 a year in tuition at a school that is making headlines for possible loss of accreditation over a high profile abortion fight?  Sorta screams “backwards” doesn’t it? 

But Kansas abortion foes aren’t used to walking away from a fight, they have always pushed through their legislative agenda, regardless of the cost.  So, a good old-fashioned Kansas showdown is expected. 

Stay tuned to RH Reality Check for updates. 

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