Where do candidates for the Kansas Legislature stand on human-animal hybrids?
That’s something that Kansans for Life, the state’s leading anti-abortion group, wants to know.
The group’s support played a key role in Gov. Sam Brownback’s re-election in 2014 and has been heavily sought by legislative candidates in recent elections.
A questionnaire that Kansans for Life’s political action committee sent to legislative candidates this month asks candidates whether they oppose human cloning and the creation of human-animal hybrids, which the group refers to as chimeras in reference to a fire-breathing beast from Greek mythology that had the head of a lion, the body of a goat and the tail of a serpent.
The questionnaire is a way to show candidates “the range of the kinds of things that the pro-life movement is interested in,” said Kathy Ostrowski, the group’s legislative director.
That includes cloning and genetic research that uses cells from more than one species. “Am I aware of it happening (in Kansas)? At this moment, no. But does that mean it’s not happening somewhere? I can’t tell you that,” she said.
Some states have banned animal-human hybrid research in recent years, but an attempt to do so in Kansas in the mid-2000s failed to gain traction, Ostrowski said.
“It’s been a concern for over 10 years,” Ostrowski said. “We’re not inventing this. This is not crazy stuff.”
The questionnaire also asks candidates whether they would support legislation to enable the state to collect “economic, educational and health history profiles and other relevant information, such as the stated reason for the abortion, from women obtaining abortions” and whether they would support allowing the state to collect data on “fertility procedures, including the number of embryos created, implanted, destroyed, selectively reduced and retained.”
Ostrowski said that both Minnesota and Oklahoma collect this type of information on abortions. Data on fertility procedures is needed, she said, because the fertility industry “is almost as Wild West as abortion” and needs more scrutiny.
“That’s what we’re for: more information. Not shaming them, not giving their names. … It’s a good thing. It’s a good thing for science,” she said.
Laura McQuade, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri, warned that collecting this data would put patients’ privacy at risk and have a chilling effect on physicians.
“It’s part of their incremental strategy to say, ‘No, this is about science, this is about health and safety. We need this data.’
“But we know that all of those ideas are shams. It is about shaming and stigmatizing women who choose to have abortions,” she said.
McQuade said the questionnaire serves as a “legislative blueprint.”
Another issue covered in the questionnaire is the selection process for Kansas Supreme Court justices.
Ostrowski’s group opposes the current system, which relies on a nine-member commission to send the governor nominees. It would like the state to switch to direct appointments by the governor subject to confirmation by the Kansas Senate, or to direct election of justices.
“Biases of our judges on the Kansas Supreme Court are not discoverable under the current system, like they are in the federal system where the President’s nominees are scrutinized by the Senate before confirmation,” the questionnaire states.
A split decision by the Kansas Court of Appeals earlier this year blocked an abortion law crafted by Kansans for Life. The issue remains pending before the Kansas Supreme Court.
McQuade said the wording of the questionnaire is meant to “cast shadow upon” judges who rule against Kansans for Life on abortion issues.
“And the whole point of an independent judiciary is to sit in a check-and-balance role against the executive and the legislative branch,” she said.
A proposal to change the Supreme Court selection system fell 15 votes short of the two-thirds majority needed in the Kansas House to advance an amendment to the state constitution.
Ostrowski said Kansans for Life remains committed to pushing the issue next legislative session.
“It’s not going to change because we lost one vote,” she said.
Depending on how the upcoming election goes, those efforts could face more or less resistance next session.