TOPEKA — Abortion rights supporters demanded an apology Wednesday from a Mulvane legislator who suggested women should plan ahead for the eventuality of needing an abortion because of rape or pregnancy complications by buying supplemental abortion-only health coverage, likening it to keeping a spare tire in the car.
About two dozen abortion rights proponents, including some legislators, gathered on the Statehouse grounds to express their anger over comments made last month by Republican Rep. Pete DeGraaf.
"These remarks, once again, portray Kansas as a state that could care less about insulting and denigrating its very citizens. I would like him to formally apologize," Kari Ann Rinker, the state coordinator for the National Organization for Women, said from a podium while standing next to three stacked car tires.
DeGraaf, who attended the adjournment of the annual legislative session Wednesday, declined to respond to the demand for an apology.
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He made his comments on May 13 during a debate shortly before the House approved a bill banning private insurers from offering abortion coverage as part of their general health plans, except when a woman's life is in danger. Gov. Sam Brownback signed the bill into law last week. Starting July 1, Kansas women who want abortion coverage will need supplemental abortion-only plans.
During that House debate, Rep. Barbara Bollier, R-Mission Hills, who supports abortion rights, questioned whether women would buy abortion-only policies long before they have crisis pregnancies or are rape victims.
DeGraaf told her: "We do need to plan ahead, don't we, in life?"
Bollier asked him, "And so women need to plan ahead for issues that they have no control over with a pregnancy?"
DeGraaf then drew groans of protest from some House members when he responded, "I have a spare tire on my car."
"I also have life insurance," he added. "I have a lot of things that I plan ahead for."
Supporters argue the law will protect employers who oppose abortion rights from having to pay for policies that cover the procedures. Critics say it's designed to limit access to abortion by cutting off a way to pay for terminating pregnancies.
Abortion opponents have had several legislative victories since Brownback, an anti-abortion Republican, took office in January. The state also passed laws further restricting late-term procedures, imposing new health and safety regulations on abortion clinics and requiring doctors to obtain parental consent before performing an abortion on a minor.