TOPEKA — Earlier this month, 19 states including Kansas were given a grade of “F” for reproductive health and rights.
The annual report, released by the Population Institute, rates each state and D.C. in four categories related to pregnancies, sex education, birth control and access to abortion.
“From everything I’ve seen, I think the state warrants an F. I think some local groups are doing good things. At the state level, no,” said Sen. Laura Kelly, D-Topeka.
The failing grade was given because Kansas doesn’t require sex education, doesn’t have any laws regarding a woman’s right to emergency contraception in an emergency room, hasn’t expanded Medicare under the Affordable Care Act and has a number of laws regarding abortion. Some of those regulations include prohibition of abortion after 20 weeks, mandatory counseling, a waiting period of 24 hours between counseling and procedure and parental consent.
“I’m not concerned about the Population Institute’s grade card,” said Sen. Mary Pilcher-Cook, R-Shawnee. “I think they have their priorities in the wrong place.”
On Friday, the Kansas Court of Appeals voted 7-7 on an abortion bill concerning the dilation and evacuation procedure — or so-called dismemberment abortion. The split vote diverted the decision to the lower court’s original ruling which said a ban on the procedure, which is used in second-term abortions, would create an undue burden for women seeking abortions. The seven judges who decided in favor of the ban ruled the Kansas Constitution ensures the right to due process and therefore abortion. Opposing judges said the right to an abortion isn’t stated in the Kansas Constitution and therefore isn’t guaranteed.
Seventy-four percent of women in Kansas live in a county without an abortion provider, the Population Institute’s report found.
“A woman’s reproductive health should not depend on where she lives, but increasingly it does,” said Robert Walker, president of the Population Institute. “Women in many areas are experiencing reduced access to reproductive health care services.”
In Gov. Sam Brownback’s State of the State Address delivered Jan. 16, he stated, “We must keep working to protect our most innocent Kansans, the unborn. We have become the shining city on the hill and the champions for life.”
Brownback went on to say taxpayer money shouldn’t be allotted to Planned Parenthood through the state’s Medicaid program.
Such a declaration was an “ideological statement,” said Laura McQuade, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri.
She said the state’s failing grade “unfortunately reinforces what we already know — that Kansas is not a friendly environment for women.”
The institute’s report did give Kansas positive marks for its pregnancy rates. Across the state, 45 percent of pregnancies are unintended, with the institute’s goal being 44 percent.
Kathy Ostrowski, legislative director for Kansans for Life, said the institute has a “political agenda” with no validity in the state.
Four states — California, New Jersey, Oregon and Washington — received an “A.” The overall score for the nation decreased from a “C” to a “D+.”
Reporter Tim Carpenter contributed to this story.