With three Kansas universities receiving seeds in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, the state had the opportunity to remind the rest of the country that our public universities have a record of excellence.
But just as higher education in Kansas was being thrust onto the national stage, the Kansas Legislature told the world that academic excellence is not our priority.
In recent weeks Kansas has attracted a fair amount of national media attention because of the House Federal and State Affairs Committee’s consideration of the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act. Of specific interest here is the dispute over a provision in the bill to prohibit obstetrics and gynecology residents at the University of Kansas Medical Center from receiving abortion training.
Med Center officials pointed out that the training, which is not conducted at the KU Hospital but at private facilities, is required by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education. Although there is an opt-out for residents who have moral or religious objections to abortion, experts believe the training is essential to prepare physicians for their work.
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Why does accreditation matter? Accreditation, which certifies academic programs as meeting education standards, is a requirement for federal funding, and doctors seeking specialty credentials must be graduates of accredited programs. High-quality medical school applicants shun programs that do not make the grade.
In short, loss of accreditation would destroy the state’s ob-gyn training program.
When the accreditation problem came to light, Kansans might have expected members of the House committee to scramble to amend the bill and decisively protect the state’s medical school, but abortion politics, the tail that wags the dog in Topeka, trumped that concern.
Lawmakers responded with stalling tactics.
Moreover, posturing over the issue suggested that the ob-gyn program may have been a target rather than an incidental victim. Kathy Ostrowski of Kansans for Life asked anti-abortion voters to contact Gov. Sam Brownback and urge him to stop abortion training at the medical school.
She also incorrectly stated that “there is no professional reason” for the training and that “state sovereignty determines standards for medical training and practice – not ACGME.” While the state may license physicians, it does not accredit the schools that train them.
On Thursday, after media reports percolated for more than a week, the House committee approved the bill with an amendment to protect the Med Center’s accreditation for one year, allowing lawmakers to debate the issue again in 2013.
Even if the bill advances through the full Legislature with some protection for the medical school, the state has taken another public relations hit for its retrograde politics.