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Oklahoma and Kansas Lawmakers Pass Ban on Safe Abortion Procedure

Oklahoma and Kansas Lawmakers Pass Ban on Safe Abortion Procedure

By Caitlin Moscatello

When Kansas Governor and long-time anti-abortionist Sam Brownback signed a ban on a common, medically-sound second-trimester abortion procedure on Tuesday, it was the first legislation of its kind. The bill, titled "The Unborn Child Protection From Dismemberment Abortion Act"—which not only assigns personhood to an unborn fetus, but also includes the new anti-choice hot phrase "dismemberment abortion"—makes it illegal for abortion providers to remove a fetus in parts during a "dilation and evacuation" procedure, a common method of abortion after the 12th week of pregnancy. A similar bill has now been passed by the Oklahoma Senate in a 37-4 vote—it's fate now rests with Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin, a Republican, who will choose whether or not to sign it into law. Fallin has passed anti-abortion bills in the past; on her official website, among her "accomplishments," it states, "Governor Fallin signed every pro-life measure that came to her desk."

"All of us who provide health care to women are deeply troubled by this legislation. These bills have no basis in medicine, and they are just part of an extreme agenda by politicians who want to ban abortion completely," said Vanessa Cullins, MD, vice president for external medical affairs at Planned Parenthood Federation of America, in a released statement. "This legislation would prevent doctors from providing health care based on what's best for our patients, which is dangerous and deeply disturbing."

Both bills highlight an alarming trend among conservative Republican lawmakers, which is to restrict women's reproductive rights using junk science and shocking terminology, i.e. "dismemberment." (Even the term "pro-life" is misleading, since it suggests that someone who is pro-choice is somehow anti-life, or absurdly, pro-death. A so-called "pro-life" advocate is simply anti-abortion or anti-choice. Also: Women don't carry an "unborn child," but rather, a fetus. The list goes on.) Combined, Kansas and Oklahoma have enacted 47 restrictions on safe, legal abortion—a fraction of the more than 240 restrictions passed in all states combined since 2010. And they're hardly alone: In March, Arizona lawmakers passed a bill that would require abortion doctors to lie and tell patients that a medical abortion is "reversible"—all based on testimony made by one anti-abortion doctor, whose claim goes against that of the greater medical community. On April 6, Arkansas followed suit, passing similar legislation. 

It's mind-boggling to think that doctors will be required to unwillingly disseminate information that has no real basis in medicine, but rather, in conservative politics. Equally frustrating is that these laws put female patients and their doctors at risk. The new Kansas law does not even allow exceptions in cases of rape or incest, and doctors found to be in violation of the law more than once could be charged with a felony. This means that doctors in Kansas—and perhaps soon in Oklahoma—could be forced to abandon a common, safe procedure, for fear of legal consequences, even when that procedure is in the best interest of their patients. Similar restrictions are being considered in Missouri and South Carolina as well. 

Meanwhile, just days before restricting a woman's right to choose in Kansas, Gov. Brownback signed legislation making it legal to carry a concealed handgun without a concealed-carry permit. "We're saying that if you want to that in this state, then you don't have to get the permission slip from the government," said Brownback, according to the Kansas City Star. "It is a constitutional right, and we're removing a barrier to that right." Brownback should be reminded that it's also a constitutional right under Roe v. Wade for a woman to have access to a safe abortion, should she choose to have one. Less than a week after signing a law allowing people to more freely carry a concealed weapon in Kansas, Brownback—flanked by images of fetuses—tweeted that he is "proud" to be "protecting life at its most vulnerable stage."

The hypocrisy runs just as deep in Oklahoma, where the very same state legislature that passed the latest anti-abortion bill also passed a law reinstating the gas chamber as a backup execution method. In other words, if both bills are signed into law, it could be legal in Oklahoma to kill a convicted felon by gassing him or her, but illegal for a doctor to perform a safe D&E procedure on a female patient seeking to exercise her right to terminate a pregnancy. The gas chamber bill now also awaits Fallin's decision.


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