TOPEKA — Since Roe v. Wade was decided more than 45 years ago, abortion laws have remained controversial in Kansas.
The Senate Committee recently held a hearing on the Senate Concurrent Resolution 1606. This resolution condemns The Reproductive Health Act in the state of New York as it decriminalizes abortion. The resolution also encourages legislators and executive officials throughout the rest of the country to reject similar legislation. Women seeking abortion due to health complications are at risk of losing these rights.
Following the confirmation of Justice Brett Kavanaugh in October 2018, the Supreme Court now has a conservative majority. Because of this, advocates for reproductive rights have been preparing for the possible overturn of Roe v. Wade.
The Senate Concurrent Resolution 1606 claims that the terminology of the Reproductive Health Care Act “allows a woman to claim minimal mental or societal effects as a reason for an abortion, up to the very moment of birth” and “allows not just physicians but also licensed nurse practitioners, physician assistants and licensed midwives to perform abortions, and thus, removing important safety protections from women.”
Rachel Sweet, regional director of public policy and organizer for Planned Parenthood Great Plains in Kansas City, Missouri, spoke in opposition to the resolution. She was quick to note that “only 1 percent of abortions occur at 22 weeks or later.”
During her testimony at the March 7 Senate committee hearing, Sweet shared a story about a New York woman who was part of the 1 percent of women who found out 22 weeks into pregnancy that her child would be born with a severe condition.
“No one wants a later abortion,” Sweet said, quoting from the woman’s testimony. “Few people get them. And nearly all parents who do are grappling with devastating diagnosis like mine or worse.”
Kansans for Life Senior Lobbyist Jeanne Gawdun is a supporter of the resolution and also testified during the hearing. “We’re horrified about what New York has done and we want to send a message,” she said.
Gawdun quoted civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. during the hearing.
“We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny,” Gawdun said. “Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”
Following the hearing, Sweet said she believed some legislators didn’t focus on the issues at hand during the hearing.
“I think a lot of this was political grandstanding. It was pretty disgusting to see so many proponents spouting outright false information,” Sweet said. “I’m really just disappointed that we even had to have a hearing over something that is so inconsequential and politically toxic.”
Sweet expressed frustration with a resolution that is not binding and does not change any Kansas laws or affect anyone in Kansas citing that she would rather be directly helping clients.
“Progressive states are saying, ‘Hey, maybe Roe v. Wade isn’t always going to be around,’” Sweet said. “We need to start planning ahead and thinking about what we want our laws to look like so we can protect women’s access to safe abortion.”
For those interested in hearing more about Planned Parenthood’s actions on bills, they can go online to plannedparenthoodaction.org.
Olivia Schmidt is a University of Kansas senior majoring in journalism.