Julie Burkhart: Extreme legislation disrespects women

03/24/2013 12:00 AM

03/23/2013 6:17 PM

A huge ideological imbalance was created in the Kansas Legislature last year, but did voters intend that their elected representatives use their power to humiliate women whose pregnancies threaten their sanity or begin in violence?

Did they intend that legislators place the state at risk of colossal legal fees while invading the privacy of Kansas families via their state-held taxation data? Did they intend that government agents dictate the terms of women’s medical care while forcing their doctors to lie to them about abortion risks that do not exist?

It seems a safe bet that most voters, even those who detest abortion, would prefer not to empower the state to treat women with disrespect while wasting scarce taxpayer money on lawsuits – especially considering that Kansas already has some of the most rigid abortion laws in the nation.

Can House Bill 2253 possibly be that extreme? Those who doubt it should read the bill and decide for themselves. They’ll find language that allows abortions only for women at physical risk of losing their lives – though not quickly enough to save the lives of some women who are injured or gravely ill. As for women who are mentally ill, their conditions are not considered grave enough and therefore don’t deserve the abortion option. And if women become pregnant as the result of sexual assault, they will be forced to relive their trauma every day during a forced pregnancy. Readers will also find language requiring doctors, in violation of medical ethics, to warn patients that abortions increase the risk of breast cancer – an egregious lie disproved by medical authorities. They’ll find language empowering state agents to sift through income-tax returns to discover whether abortion-related expenses are included among medical deductions, and to collect the names of such “miscreants” for prosecution. They’ll find language barring anyone associated with terminating pregnancies, directly or tangentially, from serving as school volunteers or participating in sex education for minors. They’ll even find language granting personhood to fertilized embryos should the constitutional and statutory rights to abortion one day cease to exist.

HB 2253’s more than 70 pages create so many constitutional and statutory causes of action that the bill also should contain a provision beefing up the attorney general’s litigation budget. But the writers of the measure clearly aren’t interested in such reality-based concerns.

If the bill becomes law, Gov. Sam Brownback and the legislative leadership will find their controversial taxation, education, judicial and budgetary reform proposals even tougher to enact. The bill will suck up what remains of the 2013 session’s supply of political oxygen while alerting the voters that the men who dominate the Legislature regard women as inferior creatures incapable of charting their own course medically.

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