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Push to protect access to abortion: What federal legislation means for Kansas and Missouri

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Posted at 9:24 PM, Sep 23, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-05 13:18:39-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Earlier in September, a Texas law banned most abortions after six weeks, often well before a woman would realize she's pregnant. Then, the Supreme Court declined to block the law, for now.

So, Democrats are trying another tactic to protect access to abortion through the Women's Health Protection Act, scheduled for a vote in the House of Representatives on Friday.

"The Women’s Health Protection Act is really aimed at protecting the right to access reproductive health care, throughout the entire country," Rep. Sharice Davids said.

The Kansas Democrats support the legislation, noting it also protects against what she labels medically unnecessary restrictions placed on women seeking an abortion, something she says already exists in Kansas and Missouri.

"You know, I think that that looks like things, like coming in one time, and then having to come back to the office," Davids said.

That includes a required 24 hour waiting period in Kansas and 72 hours in Missouri.

Also in Kansas, clinics must provide women with information stating an abortion will end "the life of a whole, separate, unique living being."

Clinics are also required to tell women how old their embryo or fetus is, as well as explain the anatomy that's developed at that stage.

Planned Parenthood Great Plains Votes, the advocacy arm of the organization, says these measures make a difficult decision that much harder.

"It can be confusing for the patients to get both medical information and then also information about, for example, care that’s available to you, other options that you may have already considered. Instead of just saying, 'Here’s the healthcare information, we believe and trust you to make the decision that’s right for you,' physicians and team members, abortion providers, have to go through and provide mandatory information and education that the state requires," said Emily Wales, Planned Parenthood Great Plains interim president and CEO.

But Jeanne Gawdun, the director of government relations for Kansans for Life, says these are measures that were previously passed in Kansas with bipartisan support to make sure women are aware of their options and have time to consider them.

"Women deserve to know these things when they are making a decision that can't be undone," Gawdun said. "It's very important for them to be able to access information, just like anyone else with accessing a medical procedure. They want to know all of their options, all of the risks and the alternatives."

Gawdun adds some of these measures, like requiring parental consent for minors, are aimed at protecting women.

"The abortion industry has fought every reasonable regulation that Americans and Kansans support, such as involvement of parents, enabling parents to guide their minor daughters through the abortion decision," she said.

Gawdun and other pro-life supporters are calling for lawmakers to oppose this bill, something Rep. Jake LaTurner has made clear he's prepared to do.

"This legislation imposes on-demand abortion until birth, meaning anyone can have an abortion for any reason up until the day of the baby is born," LaTurner said on the House floor.

While this will likely pass in the House, it's unlikely to have enough support from moderate democrats and republicans to reach a majority in the Senate.

Meanwhile, this issue will come to a vote at the state level in Kansas.

Next August, there's an amendment on the ballot that would essentially reverse a previous Kansas Supreme Court ruling that guarantees the right to an abortion.