Roundups Law and Policy

Legal Wrap: Kansas Courts Embrace Same-Sex Parenting, Lawmakers Punish the Poor

Jessica Mason Pieklo

In states like Kansas and Oklahoma the fight for reproductive justice is raging, and making progress.

Some of the most critical battles in the fight for reproductive rights are happening in states like Kansas, where conservative lawmakers are undertaking an assault on the state’s poor. They’ve systematically legislated away access to health care, and now, as Kari Ann Rinker reports, they’re enacting punitive new drug testing mandates that serve no real public health objective.

Despite this extremely hostile climate to reproductive rights and justice, progress is happening in Kansas. Just last week, the Kansas Supreme Court issued a landmark ruling that affirmed parenting rights of same-sex couples. The decision, the first of its kind from the state, is a significant step forward in equal recognition and treatment of same-sex parents in states that do not formally recognize same-sex marriage.

Nowhere is conservative disdain for poor women more apparent than in the issue of Medicaid coverage for abortion. Conservatives have successfully blocked Medicaid coverage for abortion, except in extremely rare situations, at the federal level with the Hyde Amendment. Some states, including Minnesota, have preserved Medicaid funding via court order, so naturally conservative legislators are working on ways to overturn those decisions.

Like Kansas, Oklahoma is a critical battleground for reproductive rights. Conservatives in the state have led the charge against Obamacare, first in a lawsuit that seeks to cut off the flow of tax dollars to people who buy insurance through a federally run exchange. They also refused to set up a state exchange, leaving citizens with no affordable way to purchase insurance and potentially exposing them to penalties in Obamacare. Now, they’ve publicly embraced Hobby Lobby’s challenge to the law’s birth control benefit.

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If it wasn’t clear before, the war over the birth control benefit is a war of economics for the right, though they may dress it up as one of religious liberties. Case in point: This week, a coalition of anti-choice groups called for a funding resolution to allow certain non-religious groups to opt out of covering emergency contraception in their health plans. Could it be that conservatives are worried their legal challenges to the benefit will not fare so well?

Finally, the Obama administration’s slow evolution on the issue of same-sex marriage continues with this repudiation of the Defense of Marriage Act and a brief to the Supreme Court requesting it be found unconstitutional.

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