The memory of driving through Kansas haunts me. Miles of straight, uneventful interstate, broken by the more-than-occasional stare of an unnaturally cute giant billboard baby towering over me, impeding my innocent path eastward. These babies are crying out to me: how did we end up in these ads? Why are they using us like this?
But the words on the signs tell a different story: YOU ARE A BAD PERSON. JUDGMENT. JUDGMENT. DEATH. This is just how I feel.
The Kansan interstate, along with that in a few other states (rural Illinois, Indiana, Nebraska), scares me. I try to be amused, you know, by the frequency and the placement of these signs — most often next to advertisements for “xxx adult entertainment” — but I can’t help but be deeply disturbed. Kansas is home to the group Operation Rescue, and you can feel it in the air.
I don’t want to go to Kansas (no offense, really); I don’t want to go there in real life, I don’t want to go there in this article. It scares me. But I have to.
Despite all my fears, there is a small glimmer of hope in Kansas today. Three years ago, Dr. George Tiller was murdered at church by an anti-abortion activist. His clinic lay dormant for three years until one of the women who worked with him announced late last month she will reopen it. It will be the only clinic in the Wichita area, saving women seeking not only abortions but also well-woman care a drive of multiple hours.
Under the guidance of anti-Sharia (real talk, real threats) Republican Governor Sam Brownback, Kansas has already passed a number (and considered a gargantuan additional list) of legislations regarding abortion. One 2011 law, requiring certain physical dimensions and surgical amenities in women’s health clinics, is tied up in court. Also in 2011, telemedicine was banned, insurance coverage was limited, and the state instituted two-parent consent for minors.
During the 2012 session, Brownback signed a bill allowing doctors and pharmacists to refuse to provide the morning-after pill. One massive 2012 bill would “exempt doctors from malpractice suits if they withhold information –– in order to prevent an abortion –– that could have prevented a health problem for the mother or child.” It requires the woman to listen to the heartbeat and hear out misinformation about the unproven link between abortion and breast cancer. It would have prevented the KU Medical School from teaching abortion. Then, it contains the provision that you cannot deduct abortion procedures as health care unless you’ve purchased additional abortion insurance, and the implementation of a layered 6.5% sales tax on abortions.
Troy Newman, president of Operation Rescue, said “I’m completely against most forms of taxation, but abortion is such an abhorrent procedure, I would like to see it wiped out with a $2,000 or $3,000 tax on every abortion that happens in Kansas."
In response, Elizabeth Nash of the Guttmacher Institute notes : “This is a complete turnaround in this idea of small government ... Somebody spent days trying to figure out how to manipulate the tax code to disqualify abortion providers.” The hypocrites must be desperate.
In protest of this sweeping legislation, “a pair of Kansas abortion rights activists requested advice about their menstrual cycles on Brownback's [Facebook] page,” and one tried to schedule a pap smear at his office. The Senate version of the mega-bill died in committee in June, so Kansas is spared taxation for now.
Kansas is probably not stopping here, not when people like Jack Wu, Kansas Board of Education candidate and member of the science- and equality-loving (sarcasm) Westboro Baptist Church (this is not, as far as I can tell, a joke), are saying Brownback’s just too dang liberal to be governing the anchor of the Bible Belt.
And I’m still — if not more — afraid of Kansas.
Editor's Note: With 15 days left until the presidential election, PolicyMic's Audrey Farber will be posting a daily update on the state of abortion rights in the U.S., covering legislative challenges to Roe v. Wade in all 50 states. So far, we've gotten updates on: Oklahoma, Texas, Louisiana,Arkansas,Missouri,Kentucky, Minnesota, Illinois, Iowa, Mississippi, Michigan, Indiana, Alabama, Ohio, Florida, Georgia, D.C., South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia and Maryland, Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey, New York, Wisconsin, Connecticut, Vermont, Massachusetts & Rhode Island, Maine & New Hampshire. Check back in every day to keep track!