Kansas Tries to Stamp Out Abortion
By NYT THE EDITORIAL BOARD APRIL 9, 2015
During the past four years, the state of Kansas has become ground zero in the war to criminalize all abortions, and in the process to remove a woman’s ability to control what happens in her own body.
Under Gov. Sam Brownback, a staunch foe of a woman’s right to choose, Kansas’ increasingly hard-line conservative lawmakers have enacted more than two dozen restrictions curtailing women’s reproductive freedom. These include, among many others, banning all abortions after 20 weeks, restricting health insurance plans from covering the procedure, defining life as beginning at fertilization, and forcing women to undergo ultrasounds, as well as to sit through medically inaccurate lectures, before ending a pregnancy.
On Tuesday the state went still further, becoming the first to ban the safest and by far the most common method of ending a second-trimester pregnancy, dilation and evacuation, which involves dilating the cervix and removing the fetus, often in parts. (On Wednesday, a similar bill passed the Oklahoma Legislature, and awaits the governor’s signature. Bills are also pending in Missouri and South Carolina.)
The anti-abortion activists in Kansas avoided actual medical terminology in drafting Senate Bill 95, which refers to the banned procedure as a “dismemberment abortion.” The law’s language aims for maximum shock value, describing “clamps, grasping forceps, tongs, scissors” or other instruments that “slice, crush or grasp a portion of the unborn child’s body in order to cut or rip it off.”
The law makes no exceptions in cases of rape or incest, but only to save the life of the mother or to protect her from irreversible bodily harm.
Of course, the Supreme Court has repeatedly upheld the right of a woman to terminate her pregnancy before the fetus is viable outside the womb, or at about 24 weeks. Different abortion procedures are appropriate at different points in a pregnancy, and that judgment must be left to doctors, not lawmakers.
But the anti-abortion armies forge tirelessly ahead, helping to enact hundreds of duplicitous restrictions on abortion in recent years. Already in 2015, legislators in various states have introduced more than 300 such provisions. Some require doctors to provide women with misleading or unverified information, like ones passed recently in Arizona and Arkansas that claim certain drug-induced abortions can be “reversed.” Others aim to shut down stand-alone clinics under the guise of protecting women’s health. And then there are those, like Kansas’ new law, that try to capitalize on public squeamishness about safe and well-established medical procedures.
This same strategy drove earlier bans on “partial-birth” abortions (what doctors call intact dilation and extraction), the federal version of which the Supreme Court upheld, by a 5-to-4 vote, in 2007. The court allowed that law to stand because women could still rely on other safe abortion methods like dilation and evacuation, which is used in less than 10 percent of abortions. Now this method is under legislative assault, too, even though there is no dispute among doctors as to its safety or reliability.
Here, as with other recent legislation limiting doctors’ ability to prescribe abortion-inducing medications in the first trimester, lawmakers have imposed their own moral judgments and restricted or criminalized decisions doctors make in caring for their patients.
The overall effect, as intended, has been to make an abortion harder to get than at any time since before the 1973 Supreme Court ruling in Roe v. Wade. This is true especially for lower-income and other vulnerable women, who are often the first to be denied the choice they have under the Constitution.
Read the full article at the New York Times