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Kansas House passes abortion survey bill, rebuffs erectile dysfunction, vasectomy amendments


Kansas House passes abortion survey bill, rebuffs erectile dysfunction, vasectomy amendments

Mar 06, 2024 | 7:23 pm ET
By Tim Carpenter
Kansas House moves abortion survey bill; draws erectile dysfunction, vasectomy amendments
Rep. Melissa Oropeza, a Democrat from Kansas City, Kansas, proposed an amendment to a Kansas House bill expanding questions on the state's abortion survey that would likewise ask males to answer a series of comparable questions about why they sought vasectomies. (Tim Carpenter/Kansas Reflector)

TOPEKA — The Kansas House approved with less than a veto-proof majority Thursday a bill doubling the frequency of state health agency statistical reports on abortion and requiring more than a dozen questions be added to surveys of individuals contemplating termination of a pregnancy.

The debate Wednesday on the House floor regarding House Bill 2749 was interrupted by rare consideration of the public health merit to surveying men to determine the reasoning behind decisions to undergo a vasectomy birth control procedure and to better understand why individuals sought medical care for erectile dysfunction.

Republicans supporting the bill requiring the Kansas Department of Health and Environment to compile twice-a-year reports, weren’t thrilled with the amendments on erectile dysfunction and vasectomies. Democrats proposed both to illustrate what they believed were increasingly intrusive questions of women on the abortion survey. On final action, the House voted 81-39 to send the bill to the Kansas Senate.

GOP House members argued biannual reports on abortion would help guide the Legislature’s decisions on serving interests of pregnant women. Democrats in the House claimed the supplemental reporting would be used by anti-abortion forces interested in finding a way to ban abortion in Kansas.

“Knowledge is power and with more knowledge about why women are seeking abortion comes empowerment of choice,” said Rep. Brenda Landwehr, a Wichita Republican and chair of the House Health and Human Services Committee. “This bill was not taken lightly. We just want to have more information. Make sure we’re making the right decision for these women.”

In August 2022, Kansas voters overwhelmingly rejected a proposed amendment to the Kansas Constitution that would nullify a decision of the Kansas Supreme Court that declared the state’s Bill of Rights contained a fundamental right to bodily autonomy that extended to termination of a pregnancy. Anti-abortion organizations, including bill-sponsor Kansans for Life, responded the past two years with a collection of bills aimed at deterring abortion in the state. That lobbying activity occurred while Kansas became a magnet for women who sought a legal abortion but lived in states that essentially banned the procedure.

Currently, KDHE has responsibility for preparing an annual summary of abortions in Kansas. The latest report issued in June 2023 covered the 2022 calendar year. It indicated Kansas had 12,318 abortions that year, with 3,842 or 31.2% performed on Kansas residents. The report said 83.1% were unmarried, 59.6% were at less than nine weeks gestation and 99% reported they weren’t subjected to physical, mental or emotional abuse.


Rep. Brenda Landwehr, R-Wichita, urged House colleagues to support expansion of a survey of females seeking abortions in Kansas and to require the state government to issue results twice annually. The House is expected to vote Thursday on House Bill 2749. (Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)
Rep. Brenda Landwehr, R-Wichita, supported expansion of a Kansas Department of Health and Environment survey of females seeking abortions and to require the state agency to issue statistical reports on abortion twice annually. The House voted 81-39 to send House Bill 2749 to the Kansas Senate. (Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)


‘Invasive, stigmatizing’

Under the House bill, the report would be published twice annually and would contain results of questions about why patients sought an abortion. Supporters of the legislation said they needed insight into the following: Does the patient believe she has enough children? Is the patient unable to afford a child? Is the patient’s husband or partner abusive? Does the patient lack family support to raise a child? Is the pregnancy the result of rape or incest? Does the pregnancy threaten the patient’s physical or mental health? Is the abortion sought because the child would have a disability?

Landwehr’s committee removed from the list of questions inquiries tied to whether pregnancy interfered with the patient’s career, whether the patient was mature enough to raise a child and whether the abortion was sought to prevent people from knowing the female was sexually active.

The new questions contained in the bill would be coupled with inquiries on previous KDHE surveys regarding patient age, marital status, residency, race, education level, domestic violence as well as the method of abortion.

Rep. Lindsay Vaughn, an Overland Park Democrat, said advocates of the bill suggested the motivation was to gather information useful in shaping public policy for the behalf of women. In reality, she said, the objective was to collect “invasive data with the ultimate purpose of eliminating abortion in Kansas” while also “stigmatizing and potentially retraumatizing” women seeking abortion health services.

“In truth,” Vaughn said, “this bill is not about innocuous data collection. Patients seeking any other form of necessary health care would never be asked such intrusive and personal questions to justify why they are seeking that care. This bill is about targeting women who make the difficult and extremely personal decision to get an abortion.”

On the contrary, said Coffeyville GOP Rep. Ron Bryce. He said that as a practicing physician — he’s licensed in Texas, not Kansas — all sorts of questions were required to be asked of patients. He said the list included drug use, personal safety, guns in the home, contraception, sexual partners and inquiries about financial stress and educational attainment. The objective of those questions was to gather facts rather than make assumptions, he said.

“There is absolutely nothing in this bill that is different or intrusive compared to the status quo,” said Bryce, who introduced the bill on behalf of Kansans for Life. “These questions do serve a purpose. They provide data on the underlying factors that drive young women into these difficult situations.”

Rep. Susan Ruiz, a Democrat from Kansas City, said she objected to expansion of a survey of females seeking abortion services in Kansas because the motivation was to gather information to press for further restriction or elimination of abortion in the state (Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)
Rep. Susan Ruiz, a Democrat from Kansas City, said she objected to expansion of the state government’s survey of females seeking abortion services in Kansas. She alleged motivation for the bill was to gather information of potential use in a campaign to restrict or eliminate abortion rights in the state. (Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)


The vasectomy question

Rep. Melissa Oropeza, a Democrat from Kansas City, Kansas, said she was convinced the scope of questions to be raised with women seeking an abortion was inhumane. She said the extensive line of inquiry in the bill resembled a university or government research project that neglected to proactively secure informed consent of patients. In addition, she said no one was required to answer any question posed to them by a health professional.

She said it occurred to her the bill was another gender-specific intrusion into relationships between doctor and patient. Along that line, she said it could be useful for the state of Kansas to gather information about incidence of vasectomies in wake of the U.S. Supreme Court striking down the landmark Roe v. Wade decision guaranteeing abortion rights throughout the country.

“I agree there are things we do need to know about reproductive care,” Oropeza said.

Her amendment tied to reasons behind a potential rise in vasectomies was determined by a House panel to not be germane to a bill mandating an abortion survey of Kansans.

Rep. Stephanie Sawyer Clayton, D-Overland Park, offered an amendment requiring KDHE to collected from physicians and clinics information on the sexual health of Kansas men seeking professional health care for erectile dysfunction. In particular, her amendment would delve into questions about erosion of self-confidence among people experiencing erectile dysfunction and what the patients considered the reasons for seeking treatment.

“I do think erectile dysfunction is a scourge on the state of Kansas,” Sawyer Clayton said. “I think it causes issues when it comes to our very important birth rate.”

Landwehr, chair of the House health committee, said Sawyer Clayton’s amendment was not suitable for an abortion regulation bill and had nothing to do with male body parts. The Sawyer Clayton amendment was withdrawn before it could be put to a vote in the House.

The bill was endorsed by Kansans for Life, Alliance Defending Freedom, Kansas Family Voice and the Kansas Catholic Conference. Objections were raised by Planned Parenthood Great Plains Votes, Trust Women Foundation, Loud Light Civic Action and the Mainstream Coalition.