The Kansas Senate has approved anti-choice legislation that literally prioritizes a doctor’s personal beliefs over women — currently alive, breathing women — by permitting doctors and other healthcare providers to refuse medical care to a pregnant woman if such care might end her pregnancy. And here’s the kicker: the healthcare provider would not be under any obligation to refer the patient elsewhere.
So, if a woman develops breast cancer while pregnant, or if a woman with breast cancer becomes pregnant, her doctor could refuse to provide chemotherapy treatment to her, and the doctor would not have to tell her why she was being refused to treatment and would not have to refer the patient to another doctor who would provide chemo.
We’re familiar with abortion laws that prioritize the lives of the unborn over the lives of women. This bill now prioritizes a doctor’s personal beliefs over the life of a human.
The Senate approved the “conscience” measure, 23-16. The House passed the bill last month, and Brownback is expected to sign it. The new law would take effect July 1.
Abortion opponents argued that the legislation merely updates decades-old state laws preventing doctors and hospitals from being forced to participate in abortions or sterilizations. They said changes are needed because women seeking abortions can now use drugs to induce them, and health care professionals who oppose abortion shouldn’t face the threat of losing their jobs or being sued if they follow their consciences.
“This is about respecting the rights to conscience and others’ beliefs,” said Sen. Mary Pilcher Cook, R-Shawnee, who opposes abortion. “Let’s protect people’s beliefs.”
The measure extends “conscience” protections to clinics, doctor’s offices and other facilities other than hospitals. People are protected not only from being forced to participate in abortions but from referring patients for abortion services or participating in the prescription or administration of any drug that terminates a pregnancy.
The legal protections extend to any individual or institution that “reasonably believes” that the use of a drug terminates a pregnancy. Some critics said that provision will allow doctors and pharmacists to refuse to prescribe or dispense birth control.
They also said it could allow a doctor to refuse to provide chemotherapy to a pregnant cancer patient because it might end her pregnancy.
Furthermore, critics said, patients wouldn’t know about a provider’s moral objections until the provider refused to provide treatment or dispense a drug – and the provider wouldn’t have to refer the patient elsewhere.
“This is outrageous,” Sen. Kelly Kultala, D-Kansas City, said after the vote.
Federal and state lawsuits are challenging Kansas laws enacted last year to impose health and safety rules specifically for abortion providers, restrict private health insurance coverage of elective abortions and prevent the state from paying Planned Parenthood to provide non-abortion services.
Those measures helped vault Kansas to the forefront of a national trend in which abortion foes capitalized on the election of new, sympathetic Republican governors like Brownback. Kansas lawmakers also tightened limits on late-term abortions and required parental consent in writing before a minor’s abortion.
Julie Burkhart, founder of the abortion-rights political action committee Trust Women, said the latest measure further erodes health care for women.
I’m stunned. I shouldn’t be, but I am. This is just outrageous.
ABL aka Angry Black Lady aka Imani Gandy is a recovering attorney with a burning love of fire and perfectly-constructed sentences. The “anger” portion of her moniker stems not from her displeasure at the hellscape that American politics has become, but rather is a symptom of the pituitary tumor which has been indefinitely detained in her brain since 2006. When she’s not pointing out that people are wrong on the Internet – or writing for Balloon Juice, The Grio, The Team Uterati Wiki Project, or RH Reality Check -- she likes long sits on the beach. Also, she thinks gravity is a real downer. You can follow her on Twitter at @AngryBlackLady.
Raw Story is a progressive news site that focuses on stories often ignored in the mainstream media. While giving coverage to the big stories of the day, we also bring our readers' attention to policy, politics, legal and human rights stories that get ignored in an infotainment culture driven solely by pageviews.
Founded in 2004, Raw Story reaches 5 million unique readers per month and serves more than 19 million pageviews.