With 70 full pages of anti-abortion, anti-contraception policy written into one massive bill, it’s not surprising that House Bill 2253 is a gold mine of misinformation passing as public policy. What is shocking about it is the blatant attack that the bill portrays not just on abortion, but on the medical profession itself.
Opponents of the bill have repeatedly pointed to HB 2253 as a series of anti-science political pandering to those in the “sanctity of life from conception to natural death” wing of the religious right. Despite the fact that last year’s version of the bill died out of fear of the University of Kansas Medical School losing accreditation in the face of new regulations, this year’s bill replaces medical best practices with anti-choice belief with near systematic precision.
1) “Life begins at fertilization.” Anti-choice advocates claim they are only enforcing the idea that the state has an interest in fetal life, one that has been supported by past Supreme Court rulings. But without a petri dish, it’s hard to discern when exactly fertilization even happens. There is a window during ovulation in which conception can occur, but even then the body doesn’t start secreting hormones like HCG until the fertilized egg implants, which is anywhere from seven to ten days after ovulation but could even occur as late as 12 days. The point of fertilization is mostly guesswork in any non-fertility assistance situation. By a near magical deification of an egg at a non-medically specified point of fertilization, a typical pregnancy practice is revamped to compliment political ideology.
2) “Mental health is never a reason to get an abortion.” Called a “gotcha” amendment by bill supporters, reproductive rights advocates in the statehouse made a last-ditch effort to at least add exceptions for rape, incest, and mental health issues to the state’s already existing 22 week gestation abortion ban. That was shot down with the argument that there is never a time when a person’s mental health would benefit from an abortion. It’s a long-standing talking point from the National Right to Life, which claims that mental health exceptions are used to allow “abortion under any circumstance because the Supreme Court has defined ‘health’ to mean a general feeling of well-being or age or familial conditions or psychological factors.” Those lawmakers must have never come in contact with a woman who without such an exception would be forced against her will to continue to carry a child with no hope of survival. Now, doctors are unable to decide what is in the best interest of their patients at the point of 22 weeks gestation, and must instead defer to legislators.
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3) “Abortion (and birth control) causes cancer.” Written into the so-called “informed consent” portion of the bill is what Rep. Annie Keuther (D -Topeka) has been saying in the press is “the Women’s Right to Be Lied to Act” which mandates doctors tell those who seek an abortion that there is a link between terminating a pregnancy and developing breast cancer. Despite denial by the National Cancer Institute, the anti-choice movement continues to say that they know far more than medical experts on the subject, and that they get to write the script for the doctors themselves.
4) “Doctors shouldn’t learn basic gynecological procedures.” This years version of the bill differs from last year’s version in that those medical students at the University of Kansas who want to learn to perform basic gynecological procedures like vacuum aspirations and D&Cs during their residencies will now not only need to leave campus, they will have to undergo a completely separate training program to ensure that no “taxpayer dollars” might mingle and potentially support abortion. By making the training inconvenient, it ensures doctors are less likely to obtain that training, regardless of whether the med students plan to offer elective abortions for the general public, but even for private patients who may need the procedure due to non-viable pregnancy, miscarriage management, or because her health is in danger. In essence, the Kansas legislature has stepped in to write the training curriculum for med students.
5) “Research on adult stem cells is just as effective as research done on embryonic lines.” The “life begins at conception” protections aren’t just a way to stop abortion and birth control. It probably isn’t any coincidence that at the same time that the state is approving a massive bill that “symbolically” protects life at the “point of fertilization,” it is also has created a bill for an adult stem cell research and treatment center at Kansas University Medical Center. But according to the Lawrence Journal-World, “KU Med didn’t ask for the measure, and there is no funding in the proposal to start what would be called the Midwest Stem Cell Therapy Center.” Why didn’t the University ask for something the state is so obviously willing to give them? Because adult stem cells aren’t nearly as effective for research as embryonic lines are.
But don’t tell that to the Kansas legislature. After all, they are now medical experts.