Opinion Columns & Blogs

Kansas women holding second-class positions

It’s no secret that families in Kansas are suffering as a result of the state’s severe economic and budgetary shortfalls. And this gap is exacerbated by the barriers to economic success that Kansas women face, as a recent study from the Center for Science Technology and Economic Policy and the Women’s Foundation found.

The study shows that Kansas women are more likely to be poor than men. Even though women have higher levels of educational attainment than men in Kansas, they earn less money. They tend to be segregated into lower-paying professions, such as teachers, nursing, secretarial work and service industry jobs.

Women also typically spend more of their income on child care. The report estimates that child care costs 31 percent of female median earnings. High child care costs keep qualified women out of the state workforce because they can’t earn enough to make their child care costs worth it.

Women also are underrepresented in public office and in official leadership positions such as on civic boards. All of these factors contribute to Kansas women holding second-class positions in the public sphere and the workforce.

Research tells us that states like Kansas that have extensive restrictions on reproductive health care tend to spend less on programs to support the health of women and their children. These states also tend to have worse outcomes for women’s and children’s health. The state of Kansas has worked hard to not only restrict access to necessary reproductive health care but also to cut programs that help women provide for their families and succeed.

Kansas has some of the most severe restrictions on access to abortion services of any state. Women in Kansas also have less access to preventative cancer screenings than the national average.

In 2014, 14 percent of women of working age in Kansas were uninsured. For women in poverty, the rate was 30 percent. Pregnant women are reporting significant delays in being able to access prenatal care through KanCare because the application system is so backlogged.

A blatant refusal to expand access to Medicaid in the state has once again placed political goals before the well-being of Kansas citizens. How can we expect our state to succeed when Gov. Sam Brownback and his legislative allies are doing everything in their power to make it more difficult to not only plan a family and prevent unwanted pregnancies but also to feed our families and provide them with adequate medical care? How can we expect women to succeed economically when they are unable to prevent unwanted pregnancies or even access prenatal care?

Julie Burkhart is CEO of the Trust Women Foundation in Wichita.