As hundreds gathered to decry abortion Friday, the cold was almost as bitter as the continuing divisions among Americans over the procedure as the nation marked the 43rd anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision.
Abortion opponents reacted angrily at the noon-hour rally outside the Statehouse to a new ruling by the Kansas Court of Appeals just hours earlier that upheld a district court’s decision against the ban on so-called dismemberment abortion.
But abortion rights supporters welcomed the ruling and this week have been pushing legislation to repeal what they see as onerous laws put in place over the past few years.
U.S. Rep. Tim Huelskamp, a Republican representing the 1st District, railed against abortion in apocalyptic tones — an ultimate struggle of us versus them.
“They intend to use the courts to end this debate, to end our rallies,” Huelskamp said. “They know we are winning the minds and hearts of America. We know the polls. We know that Americans understand. In 1973 they made the claim they didn’t know when life began. Do we know when life begins? Yes, we do.”
Abortion foes are winning the day, Huelskamp said, but through the courts the supporters of abortion rights want to destroy them. The crowd — predominantly students from Catholic and private schools — cheered him on.
“They intend to continue to kill babies. And if we stand in the way, ladies and gentlemen, they intend to destroy us as well. And should we expect any different? Should we expect any different from the culture of death?”
Nationally, the Gallup poll shows a majority of Americans support at least limited abortion rights. In 2015, 19 percent of Americans said abortion should be illegal in all circumstances. Fifty-one percent favor its legality in some circumstances while 29 percent believe it should be legal always.
Gallup also found that in 2015, for the first time in seven years, a majority of Americans describe themselves as pro-choice.
This past week, Trust Women, an organization that runs clinics offering abortion and other reproductive services, hailed a series of bills that would reverse some abortion restrictions in Kansas.
Legislation introduced by Democrats as well as a Republican would create a program to help women obtain long-acting contraception, repeal a current law that blocks private insurance from covering abortion services and repeals a ban on drug-induced abortions performed via telemedicine.
“The introduction of these bills marks the beginning of a return to reasonable laws for reproductive health care in Kansas,” Trust Women CEO Julie Burkhart said.
“Our supporters and patients have asked us to work with lawmakers to repeal the extreme and punitive restrictions passed in the last few years,” Burkhart said. “I am thrilled to work with and support lawmakers who want to make it easier for Kansans to access necessary reproductive health care.”
The legislation faces long odds in House and Senate chambers controlled by conservative Republicans. Lawmakers are more likely to enact a permanent block on tax funding going toward Planned Parenthood.
Although no state funds currently go toward abortions provided by Planned Parenthood, the organization was receiving about $60,000 a year as it provides other services. Gov. Sam Brownback cut off the funding unilaterally — announcing the action in his State of the State address earlier this month.