Opinion

State constitutional amendment on abortion promises far-reaching consequences for Kansans

Abortion-rights activist Jamie McIntyre reacts to the ruling that overturns the landmark Roe v. Wade case in front of the U.S. Supreme Court on June 24, 2022, in Washington, D.C. (Nathan Howard/Getty Images)

Abortion-rights activist Jamie McIntyre reacts to the ruling that overturns the landmark Roe v. Wade case in front of the U.S. Supreme Court on June 24, 2022, in Washington, D.C. (Nathan Howard/Getty Images)

The Kansas Reflector welcomes opinion pieces from writers who share our goal of widening the conversation about how public policies affect the day-to-day lives of people throughout our state. Marla Flentje and Susan Osborne serve on the State Leadership Team of Women for Kansas.

The “Value Them Both” constitutional amendment on the Aug. 2 ballot has been advertised as allowing for reasonable regulations of the procedure. We understand the desire but are concerned about what might happen if the amendment passes.

What consequences could we see throughout the state?

Severe abortion limitations, including outright bans, could be passed by the Legislature. Women seeking treatment for miscarriage — 10-20% of all pregnancies — could then find their health care compromised and integrity questioned. Paradoxically, procedures and medications used to treat miscarriages are also used for abortions. What will be needed to “prove” a woman miscarried?

Government scrutiny would also be needed for women with life-threatening ectopic pregnancies. Indeed, women who experience any reproductive-related medical conditions could lose privacy and access to timely medical care.

Young girls, victims of rape or incest, and those with high-risk pregnancies could also be forced to give birth. The verbose amendment language does not guarantee any exceptions, even to save the life of the mother.

For women, the course of their lives could be dramatically and forcefully changed. Many will be desperate enough to have an illegal and unsafe abortion. Abortions won’t stop because they are illegal. As before 1973, hospitals will once again treat women for sepsis infections resulting from self-induced or underground abortions. Women will die.

For women, the course of their lives could be dramatically and forcefully changed. Many will be desperate enough to have an illegal and unsafe abortion. Abortions won’t stop because they are illegal. As before 1973, hospitals will once again treat women for sepsis infections resulting from self-induced or underground abortions. Women will die

– Marla Flentje and Susan Osborne

Certain birth control methods could be criminalized. Some states want to outlaw “morning after” pills and medically induced abortions, which now account for more than half of all abortions. Some legislators equate birth control and abortion and want restrictions or a complete ban on all artificial birth control.

Finally, criminalization of abortion would demand expanded Kansas government intrusion.

Who will investigate allegations of women having abortions or doctors who perform them? Who will scrutinize those who “aid and abet” abortions? Who will track mailed packages to ensure they don’t contain prescriptions for a medical abortion? Who will receive the paperwork for miscarriage reports and judge which are clandestine abortions? And who will prosecute alleged violations? Hundreds of new state employees will be needed to administer regulations and enforce abortion bans.

The garbled language on the “Value Them Both” amendment ballot comes down to this: If the measure fails, there will be no change to abortion access in Kansas. Abortions before 22 weeks of pregnancy will remain available from several clinics regulated for medical safety with services performed by real doctors.

Abortions past 22 weeks will still be prohibited, except to save a mother’s life. There will only be a handful of late-term abortions. It is worth noting there hasn’t been a third-trimester abortion in Kansas since 2018. Taxpayers still will not pay for abortions.

If the amendment passes, a legal pathway will be created for diminishing abortion access. It will overturn the Kansas Supreme Court’s decision declaring that Kansans have a right to bodily integrity. Passage of the amendment will allow the Legislature to further restrict or outlaw all abortions, similar to what Oklahoma did recently when it enacted a total ban on the procedure with no exceptions.

If you think this forecast is outlandish, consider the mission of Kansans for Life, the amendment’s author and chief proponent.

The beginning reads: “Kansans for Life is a nonprofit advocacy and educational organization dedicated to protecting and defending the right to life of all innocent humans from the moment of conception to natural death.”

However you vote and whatever your feelings on abortion, the consequences of the “Value Them Both” amendment could be far-reaching for Kansas and Kansas women.

Through its opinion section, the Kansas Reflector works to amplify the voices of people who are affected by public policies or excluded from public debate. Find information, including how to submit your own commentary, here. 

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Marla Flentje
Marla Flentje

Marla Flentje spent her career in public administration at the WSU School of Public Affairs, the Kansas Association of Counties and currently at Austin Peters Group, a private consulting firm. She is on the state leadership team of Women for Kansas and advocates for persons with developmental disabilities.

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Susan Osborne
Susan Osborne

Susan Osborne is a member of the state leadership team of Women for Kansas. With chapters throughout the state, Women for Kansas is a non-partisan organization that supports moderation in political issues and cooperation between political parties. She is retired from teaching and administrative positions at Wichita State University, Friends University and Newman University.

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