As Kansans prepare to vote on the future of reproductive health care in our state, we would do well to remember another chapter in our history. Between World War I and World War II, Kansas authorities sent more than 5,000 women to a prison in Lansing under a law called Chapter 205 for no other “crime” than having syphilis or gonorrhea.
First implemented in an attempt to control venereal disease among troops during WWI, the policy was almost exclusively applied to women.
Authorities talked about Chapter 205 as a way to morally reform young women who were engaged in what might have been called “lascivious conduct” at the time. But, as often happens when black-and-white moral mandates get applied to the messy realities of life, many others were caught up in the policy as well.