TOPEKA — The Federal and State Affairs Committee heard passionate testimony from both sides of a controversial issue. Advocates from all over the state came in to discuss their perspectives on a resolution that would effectively ban abortion in Kansas.
House Concurrent Resolution 5004 is a proposition to amend Section 1 of the Kansas Constitution to extend the rights of Kansans to include fertilized eggs. This resolution would outlaw abortion with no exceptions.
Resolution sponsor Rep. Randy Garber (R-Sabetha) started Thursday’s testimony for the proponents.
“I believe, with all my heart, that this is the most important bill of this session,” Garber told the committee.
All of the resolution’s sponsors are men, a point brought up by committee member Rep. Brandon Woodard (D-Lenexa).
“You mentioned, in reference to one of your comments, that you trust women. I certainly do as well. I can’t help but notice that your resolution is sponsored by 21 men,” Woodard said. “Was there any discussion with any of your female colleagues about signing off on this bill?”
Garber replied that he had not approached any women in the legislature about the resolution.
The first person to testify in favor of HCR 5004 was Donna Lippoldt. She is the founder of the Culture Shield Network, a non-profit organization based out of Wichita, which, according to its website, works to “inform, connect, and mobilize the Body of Christ as the moral conscience of society.”
Lippoldt argued that abortion is morally wrong.
“We have a Holocaust in Kansas and it’s happening right now,” Lippoldt said. “Kansas legislature said years ago that it was ok to kill little baby boys and girls up until the time of delivery.”
Other testifying proponents were Margaret Mans from Right to Life of Kansas and Bruce Garren, director of Personhood Kansas.
The opponents to the bill included representatives from Planned Parenthood, Trust Women, National Advocates for Pregnant Women, and ACLU of Kansas.
In her testimony, Regional Director of Public Policy and Organizing for Planned Parenthood Rachel Sweet argued that HCR 5004 would have tricky legal implications for women who miscarry.
“HCR 5004 opens the door for miscarriages to be investigated as any action a woman takes either knowingly or unknowingly that could harm her pregnancy could put her at risk for prosecution for homicide, manslaughter or reckless endangerment,” Sweet said.
Sweet also noted that in-vitro fertilization would be a grey area of the law, as not all eggs fertilized in the process are implanted in the woman undergoing the procedure.
Julie Burkhart, CEO of Trust Women, which provides abortion services in underserved communities including Wichita, testified next.
“I’m here today to ask an important question,” Burkhart said. “How can a proposal to ‘prohibit the state from discriminating against any class of human beings’ be accurate and truthful if it clearly invades Kansas women’s medical privacy and denies them individual rights?”
If passed in the House and Senate with a two-thirds majority vote, then the amendment will be on the ballot in November 2020.
Kate Mays is a University of Kansas senior from Lenexa majoring in journalism.