There has been much written here at Rewire on Kansas’ sweeping 68 page abortion restriction bill. Dubbed the “no taxpayer funds for abortion act” by it’s authors and proponents, in reality the bill goes far beyond it’s misleading title. For those that consider abortion part of a full spectrum of women’s health care and are sick to death of Kansas lawmakers obsession with restricting women’s rights and oppression of women writ large, the whole of its 68 pages… just stinks.
But there is one particular part of this stinky bill that has grabbed the attention of Kansans and that forced the House Federal and State Affairs Committee into meetings where a compromise amendment was sought by an unlikely participant in the Kansas abortion debate, that participant being the KU School of Medicine.
The part of the bill under scrutiny is a section that states:
“no health care services provided by any state agency, or any employee of a state agency while acting within the scope of such employee’s employment, shall include abortion”.
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Residents of KU Med School are considered employees of the state for insurance purposes. KU Med School must teach abortion as part of its ob-gyn training. Under Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) guidelines, abortion care must be a part of residency education.
Through the course of these closed-door meetings and discussions, a temporary compromise amendment was obtained. The amendment reads as follows,
Nothing in this subsection shall be construed to prevent a physician enrolled in a residency program and employed by the university of Kansas medical center from receiving experience with induced abortions conducted at facilities other than those owned, leased or operated by the university of Kansas hospital authority or any other state entity. For purposes of this act only, such physicians shall be considered as acting outside the scope of their official employment in such actions. This provision regarding physicians enrolled in a residency program shall remain in effect through June 30, 2013.
The “compromise” is a sunset clause. So, in one year’s time, the accreditation of KU Med School will once again be at risk. To which, pro-choice Representative Sean Gatewood stated, “This amendment essentially gives the women of Kansas a year to flee.”
For Kansas women who do not have the option of exodus, in one year’s time they would find themselves in a state that is longer training and accrediting Ob-Gyns. This as the result of a policy purposely enacted and pursued by “pro-life” legislators and groups, specifically Kansans for Life. These are people who are supposedly advocating for the health of women and babies, yet somehow fail to see the disconnect in their mission that occurs as the result of a lack of trained ob-gyns within their state.
There was still some confusion on the day of committee debate from anti-choice legislators as to the true need for the amendment. There were several legislators who said out loud, “I’m not a doctor, but…” and would then proceed to expound their non-medical wisdom of why they felt the amendment was not necessary and why KU Med would be just fine without it. The bill did pass out of committee with the amendment intact… however, it turns out that support was nothing but a smoke screen.
The very next day on the House floor during the lengthy discussion over the budget, Representative Joe Patton, Vice-Chair of the House Federal and State Affairs Committee and co-founder for Kansans for Life, introduced a new amendment that strikes down the gesture made by the KU Med sunset amendment. It amends the budget to include the original language in the 68-page abortion bill, preventing any state employee from performing abortions. The amendment passed on a voice vote.
Today, the accreditation of KU Med School continues to hang in the balance. The pending bill with the sunset amendment will likely be debated and passed by the House this week, and the budget with the abortion amendment is still pending. Both the bill and the budget must yet meet the approval of the Senate, which is the more moderate body. This “more moderate body” did manage to approve 5 anti-choice measures last session, however, so the ultimate fate of KU Med School’s accreditation remains bleak.