Politics & Government

As Kansas legislators slam New York abortion rights law, a colleague shares her story

The Kansas House during debate over a resolution condemning a New York abortion law.
The Kansas House during debate over a resolution condemning a New York abortion law. The Wichita Eagle

As the Kansas Legislature condemns a New York law strengthening abortion rights, one lawmaker is sharing the story of her own abortion.

“Colleagues, I have had an abortion and it saved my life, and it saved my health and enabled me to go on to have another healthy child,” Rep. Elizabeth Bishop, a Wichita Democrat, told lawmakers Tuesday.

Kansas lawmakers advanced a resolution condemning a New York law that permits late-term abortions when a woman’s health is endangered and authorizes physician assistants to perform some abortions.

Kansas is the first state in which both legislative chambers have voted to condemn the New York law, according to the Family Policy Alliance of Kansas, which supports the resolution.

The House spent more than two hours debating the resolution and whether to condemn other things, such as the lack of Medicaid expansion or President Donald Trump’s affair with an adult film actress.

Lawmakers gave the resolution first-round approval 78-5 (32 lawmakers voted present in protest). A final vote will come Wednesday, then copies of the resolution will be sent to every New York lawmaker.

Bishop’s speech, near the end of debate, silenced the noisy chamber.

Bishop, who has two sons, said she was pregnant between them. In her second trimester, “I began to recognize that something was very wrong.” During an emergency room visit, she was told she would need to abort the child and that she could bleed to death otherwise.

“These are difficult decisions and they should remain between a woman and her doctor and her religious advisers. And government should get its nose out of the relationship between a woman and her doctor trying to assist her with what is often an extremely difficult time. This should be private,” Bishop said, urging lawmakers to oppose the resolution.

Supporters of the resolution said condemning the New York law was a civil rights issue.

“When extreme injustice is inflicted on innocent children, it is incumbent on Kansas leaders to speak out for those who cannot speak for themselves,” said Rep. Renee Erickson, a Wichita Republican who carried the resolution.

The Kansas resolution says the New York law passed in January “repealed vital protections for an unborn child who is born alive and who survives an abortion attempt” and that the people of Kansas “value and seek to protect” all life.

The New York law allows a woman “to claim minimal mental or societal effects as a reason for an abortion, up to the very moment of birth,” according to the resolution. It also says allowing physician assistants to perform abortions removes safety protections.

“All this does is encourage the folks that are pro-life in the state of New York to hold their legislators accountable,” said Rep. John Barker, an Abilene Republican.

Lawmakers spent much of the debate on topics other than abortion. Democrats proposed a series of amendments to add other condemnations. All of their ideas were rejected as not connected to the resolution.

One amendment condemned any state that doesn’t constitutionally fund its schools. Another condemned family separations at the southern U.S. border. Still another went after Kansas lawmakers for not expanding Medicaid.

Others tried to scold lawmakers for passing pointless resolutions. There was also an attempt to condemn politicians who engage in adultery with adult film stars and then use hush money to cover it up, a clear reference to President Trump’s payments to Stormy Daniels.

Several lawmakers said Kansas has enough problems of its own without weighing in on the New York law. They also suggested the resolution would go straight into the trash cans of New York lawmakers.

“Does anyone in this room seriously think the New York state legislature going to pay 10 cents worth of attention to what the Kansas Legislature wants them to do?” Rep. Jerry Stogsdill, a Prairie Village Democrat, said.

The offices of the New York governor, Senate president, and House speaker didn’t respond to requests for comment.

The Associated Press contributed to this story

Jonathan Shorman covers Kansas politics and the Legislature for The Wichita Eagle and The Kansas City Star. He’s been covering politics for six years, first in Missouri and now in Kansas. He holds a journalism degree from the University of Kansas.