Reducing abortions the right way



May 30, 2019 - 10:25 AM

While Georgia, Alabama, and Missouri just passed strict abortion bans, the Kansas Supreme Court has taken a completely different tack. In Hodes & Nauser v Schmidt, the court ruled that the Kansas Constitution protects a woman’s right to have an abortion, except in cases of a narrowly tailored state interest. Kansas Senate President Susan Wagle quickly denounced the decision. Making little reference to the court’s reasoning, Wagle instead used a fiery op-ed to denounce the decision as out of touch with Kansas values, criticize other states that have passed laws protecting abortion access, and even invoke the draconian phrase “culture of death.” Wagle and her allies demand a legislative fix, most likely a constitutional amendment, to the ruling.

Listening to the rhetoric, one could hardly guess that the number of abortions provided in the U.S. is already falling dramatically — but it is. According to the Center for Disease Control, the number of abortions dropped from over 852,000 in 2006 to about 638,000 in 2015. There is nothing in the data indicating that the drop is due to tough state restrictions on abortion.  Instead, during the period studied, new methods of birth control — particularly reversible implants — became more widely available and commonly used, resulting in fewer unplanned pregnancies and fewer abortions. We should build on this progress.

If Wagle and her allies succeed in criminalizing abortion here, then women who are able will simply travel to other states to have abortions. Granted, Georgia’s brand-new law include penalties for state residents who have abortions in other states, but this provision blatantly violates the U.S. Constitution’s Privileges and Immunities Clause. It is not likely to survive even the most conservative court. Unfortunately, this is not the end of the story.  Kansans women who suffer from rape, incest, poverty or some combination of these would now face even more challenges. Some of those affected are children themselves. Ominously, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment’s birth statistics include a category for babies born to girls ages 10 to 14. There were only 22 of these in 2016 — but that is 22 too many, and not a number we want to see on the rise.

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