The Kansas abortion bill is an affront to freedom

In another blow to abortion rights in the US, Kansas lawmakers have approved measures to make it more difficult for women to terminate a pregnancy. Abortion clinics in Kansas will now be forced to give patients detailed outlines of the risks involved with having an abortion, along with the doctor’s professional background, educational history and residential status, 24 hours before a procedure. The legislation even stipulates that this information must be provided to the patient on ‘white paper, in black ink and using 12-point Times New Roman font’.

Supporters of the bill claim that it will act as a safeguard for women who might not know the risks involved in an abortion. They also argue that the bill will protect women from unscrupulous doctors who seek to misrepresent their professional backgrounds.

These stipulations go far beyond what is required for any other medical procedure, and are completely unique in state law in asking for specific formatting requirements. Abortion providers in Kansas, and across much of the US, already face incredible difficulties in providing services to women. There are only 10 doctors performing abortions in the entire state of Kansas, working with only three abortion providers. Women already have to travel far to access these services, at huge inconvenience and expense. They are also made to go through upsetting and demeaning steps before being allowed an abortion, including forced counselling and an unnecessary ultrasound of the pregnancy. If Kansas legislators were truly interested in assuring women had safe, secure and comfortable access to abortion, these complicated and pointless rules would be scrapped.

Mary Pilcher-Cook, a Republican member of the Kansas Senate, made little attempt to disguise the fact that the intention behind this bill was to make it harder for women to get abortions. ‘The nature of abortion is ugly and it’s evil, because it kills a human being. We need to give these women, who may be acting under coercion or ignorance, as much protection as possible’, she said.

Pilcher-Cook isn’t concerned that women are acting under ignorance or coercion; she’s afraid of trusting women to make decisions about their bodies and futures. Like many supporters of anti-abortion legislation, Pilcher-Cook hides behind a guise of wanting to protect women, when really her primary motive is to reduce woman’s freedom of choice. Her underlying message is this: women don’t know what they’re doing when they ask for an abortion, and doctors can’t be trusted to provide them with the medical help they need.

Legislation like this is designed to attack abortion providers and women who would dare to use their services. This bill needs to be acknowledged for what it is: just another attempt to punish women for having the temerity to choose and control when they have children. It needs to go.

Milja Kljajic is a writer based in London.

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