Kansas Beats Indiana In Race For ‘Worst State’ By Banning Common Abortion Procedure

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Perry Holds Campaign Rally On Eve Of Iowa CaucusesSomething is rotten in the state of Kansas, and that something is the political mishandling of reproductive health. Yesterday, Governor Sam Brownback signed a new law that bans the most common type of second-trimester abortion procedure–which also happens to be the safest type. Hopefully Indiana enjoys this respite from being the worst state in the country.

As well as being the current worst state, Kansas is also the first state in the country to enact a ban of this sort. The new law is called the Unborn Child Protection From Dismemberment Abortion Act, but it should more properly be called the Abortions Are Icky And We Don’t Trust Doctors Or Pregnant People Act. The reference to ‘protection from dismemberment’ actually refers to an abortion procedure called ‘dilation and evacuation’, in which the cervix is dilated and the fetus taken out with forceps. The main objection to this procedure, essentially, is that it sounds gross and scary (a spokesperson for Governor Brownback referred to it as “horrific”). But if we’re going to start banning medical procedures based on how unpleasant they look, we’d all better start taking very good care of our appendices and gall bladders.

The law provides exceptions only in the cases where a pregnancy endangers the pregnant person’s health, which is an interesting thing for a law that itself endangers a pregnant person’s health to do. There are no exceptions for mental health issues, nor for severe fetal health complications. So if someone wants to terminate a second-trimester pregnancy in Kansas, they’ll have to do so by inducing labor. Yes, Kansas politicians are so squeamish about surgical abortions that they want to force people to go through labor and delivery for an unwanted or possibly unviable fetus.

Because let’s be realistic about why second-trimester abortions happen. Some are of course because of fetal abnormalities that don’t crop up until the 20-week ultrasound (anencephaly, for example). But half of all women who have an abortion after 16 weeks’ gestation list the difficulty of arranging the procedure as a reason for the delay. In Kansas, a state where there’s already a 24-hour waiting period between when a patient receives state-required abortion counseling and being allowed to actually get the procedure, it’s obvious that laws like this one are meant to keep pushing abortion access a little farther out of reach. First the waiting period, and then knowing that you’ll be forced to go through labor, against your doctor’s preferred wishes, to deliver a fetus that you either didn’t want at all or that you wanted desperately and have to terminate anyway? Governor Brownback’s spokesperson is right that the word “horrific” is at play here–she just seems confused as to the direction in which it actually applies.

(Image: Andrew Burton / Stringer / Getty)