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Who’s getting abortions in Kansas? Plus more FAQs ahead of the Aug. 2 vote

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In just more than one week, voters statewide will decide on an issue that could permanently change Kansans’ health care rights.

The constitutional amendment on the Tuesday, Aug. 2 ballot, labeled “Value them Both,” is not a ban. It does not immediately make abortion illegal in Kansas. But advocates pushing for the amendment to pass have said that a ban is the ultimate goal, and that legislators have a bill ready to do just that. The amendment, if passed (a “yes” vote), would give lawmakers that unrestricted right.

Groups that support abortion bans have claimed that abortion is unregulated or unlimited in Kansas, or that all regulations would be immediately void if the amendment fails — but that’s not accurate.

Here’s some data on who’s actually getting abortions in Kansas, information about regulations that are already in place, and other FAQs.

All of the statistics here come from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment’s preliminary abortion report for 2021 — the most recent available data. We’ve also included links to some of the state laws that are currently on the books in Kansas.

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Jump to a topic or question:

Who’s getting abortions in Kansas?
Changes over time
Demographics
• Patient histories
Is Kansas a destination for late-term abortion?
How does state law already discourage abortion?
Is state funding used for abortion?
Does the current legal definition of ‘abortion’ mean that certain exceptions would be allowed within state law if the amendment passes?
The amendment implies it would put the power to regulate abortion in the hands of the people, through their elected representatives. Is that true?
Is the amendment a partisan issue?
Will the results of the amendment vote either ban abortion or strike all abortion regulations?
Where can I find the full report on Kansas abortion statistics?
Have a question we didn’t answer here? Let us know.

Who’s getting abortions in Kansas?

Kansans aren’t the only ones — and that’s nothing new.

Over the past 30 years, patients who live outside of Kansas have accounted for roughly 39% to 52% of abortions in this state. The number of in-state compared to out-of-state residents who access abortion care in Kansas has hovered right around 50-50 for more than a decade.

Click here to open this chart in a new tab or see a better mobile view.

However, new bans and restrictions have gone into effect in several neighboring states, or they will soon, following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision that overturned Roe v. Wade and took away the right to abortion at the federal level.

A spokesperson for the Trust Women clinic in Wichita told the Kansas News Service earlier this month that clinic had not yet seen a rise in out-of-state patients seeking abortions — “A lot of people will not be able to leave their states because it is now simply too far,” he said, but the state’s abortion care was already reaching capacity even before the ruling. Sandy Brown, president of the Kansas Abortion Fund, told the audience at a panel last week in Lawrence that “You can see a health care system really stretched to the limits” because of what’s going on in neighboring states.

Changes over time:

The number of abortions provided in Kansas has fluctuated over time, but in the last three decades, total abortions peaked at 12,445 in 1999. The total for 2021, 7,849, represents a 36% decrease from that peak.

Click here to open this chart in a new tab or see a better mobile view.

Demographics

Patient ages:

The majority of abortion patients in 2021, 58.5%, were between the ages of 20 to 29 years old. And 87% were between the ages of 20 and 39.

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A very small percentage of abortion patients — 0.6% — were below Kansas’ age of consent, 16.

Under state law, children under 18 must have notarized written consent of at least one parent or legal guardian who has primary custody to access abortion care, except for medical emergencies. If parents or guardians will not consent, minors can seek court approval to get an abortion. (K.S.A. 65-6705)

In addition, children under 18 must receive counseling — accompanied by a parent, guardian or person older than 21 — about alternative options. (K.S.A. 65-6704) Whether the constitutional amendment passes or fails on Aug. 2, those laws will remain in place on Aug. 3.

Patient races and ethnicities:

Just less than half of Kansas abortion patients in 2021 — 48.3% — were white and non-Hispanic.

Click here to open this chart in a new tab or see a better mobile view.

Advocates for abortion rights have said that bans will disproportionately affect Black and Brown people.

In addition, local Indigenous activists have highlighted particular concerns about bodily autonomy: just 50 years ago in the 1970s, Native women were being sterilized without their consent.

Marital statuses:

Most abortion patients in 2021 — 85.2% — were unmarried.

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Patient histories

Almost 60% of abortion patients in 2021 already had at least one child, and more than one-third had two or more children.

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Most patients in 2021 — more than two-thirds — had never had an abortion before. Just 11.5% had two or more abortions in the past.

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Frequently asked questions:

Is Kansas a destination for late-term abortion?

Kansas is not a destination for late-term abortions. State law prohibits abortion of pain-capable fetuses, which the law states is at 22 weeks. (K.S.A. 65-6724) Abortion based on the sex of the fetus is also prohibited. (K.S.A. 65-6726)

The last reports of any abortions at gestations of 22 weeks or more for Kansas residents were in 2018, and those procedures were not provided in Kansas. No “partial birth” abortions have been reported in Kansas since October 1999, according to KDHE. Whether the constitutional amendment passes or fails on Aug. 2, all of those laws will remain in place on Aug. 3.

More than 90% of abortions in Kansas in 2021 were done in the first trimester, or within the first 12 weeks, of pregnancy.

Click here to open this chart in a new tab or see a better mobile view.

Most abortions up to 9 weeks and 6 days of pregnancy use medication rather than surgery. In Kansas in 2021, medication abortions accounted for more than two-thirds of abortions, or 67.8%.

How does state law already discourage abortion?

Physicians are required by state law to provide patients a handbook titled “If You Are Pregnant,” which has a full-color depiction of a fetus on the cover and several more throughout its 32 pages. It’s available in English and Spanish, but the pages of the Spanish version online are jumbled.

Health care providers must inform their patients at least 24 hours before an abortion — quoting straight from the statute (K.S.A. 65-6709) — of the following and more:
• “the abortion will terminate the life of a whole, separate, unique, living human being”
• “Medical assistance benefits may be available for prenatal care, childbirth and neonatal care”
• “the father of the unborn child is liable to assist in the support of her child, even in instances where he has offered to pay for the abortion”
• “Many agencies are willing to provide assistance so that you may carry your child to term, and to assist you after your child’s birth.”

Patients must receive that information at least 24 hours before the abortion, and they must also be informed that they “have the right to change your mind at any time prior to the actual abortion and request that the abortion procedure cease.” (K.S.A. 65-6709)

If an ultrasound is used, the health care provider must offer the patient the opportunity to see the ultrasound and to receive physical copies of the images. Patients must sign off saying that the provider gave them that option. (K.S.A. 65-6709)

Whether the constitutional amendment passes or fails on Aug. 2, all of those laws and many more will remain in place on Aug. 3.

Is state funding used for abortion?

No. The government provides no funding for abortion in Kansas, and no taxpayer dollars are used for abortion in Kansas (K.S.A. 65-6733). State employee health insurance cannot cover “elective abortions,” either. (K.S.A. 40-2,190) The only exception could be to save the patient’s life. (K.S.A. 65-6738)

The amendment implies that this is not already written in state law. It is, and whether the constitutional amendment passes or fails, those laws will remain in place on Aug. 3.

The amendment implies it would put the power to regulate abortion in the hands of the people, through their elected representatives. Is that true? 

As legislators have already implemented numerous abortion regulations, including those mentioned above, they already have that power. But if the amendment passes (a “yes” vote), it would take away the possibility of limiting the Legislature’s power over abortion.

Representation of Kansas voters is a separate issue worth considering in this conversation, though: Between the Kansas House and Senate, there are 165 elected legislators entrusted to represent roughly 2.94 million Kansans. Just 56.4% of voters statewide showed up to the polls in November 2018 — the last non-presidential general election — and voter turnout was still just 70.9% in the 2020 presidential election. Turnout in the 2018 primary election was just 27.1% statewide. (Sources: 2020 U.S. Census; Kansas Secretary of State)

But even if voters do show up (or vote via mail ballots), they might not have a choice in who gets elected. 

This year, as the Kansas Reflector reported, “55 of the state’s 125 House seats are already decided because only one candidate filed for the seat before (the June 10) deadline. Another 10 races only have a primary contest, which means voters won’t have a choice in more than half of the House seats on the November ballot.”

That includes most Lawrence-area races: Reps. Christina Haswood, Boog Highberger, Barbara Ballard and Mike Amyx are all Democrats, and all running unopposed.

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Does the current legal definition of ‘abortion’ mean that certain exceptions would be allowed within state law if the amendment passes?

Not necessarily. Derek Schmidt, Kansas’ attorney general and Republican candidate for governor, issued an opinion Friday stating that medical treatment for ectopic pregnancies or fetal demise is not “abortion” under Kansas law and therefore would not be affected by the amendment. But if the amendment passes (a “yes” vote), it would clear the way for legislators to change those laws.

Schmidt has publicly stated his support for the amendment.

Is the amendment a partisan issue?

No. Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians and unaffiliated voters may all vote on this issue in the Aug. 2. election, even though it’s a primary election.

Will the results of the amendment vote either ban abortion or strike all abortion regulations?

No. Whether the amendment passes or fails, no laws will immediately change. But advocates pushing for the amendment to pass have said a ban is the ultimate goal, and that legislators are prepared to enact a law to do just that.

House Bill 2746 was introduced during the most recent legislative session. It would criminalize all abortions from the moment of fertilization at a felony level the same as murder. There are exceptions in that bill for miscarriages, stillbirths and ectopic pregnancies, but not for rape, incest, or to save the life of a mother.

If the amendment does not pass (a “no” vote), all current regulations of abortion would remain in effect, maintaining the status quo. However, Richard Levy, J. B. Smith Distinguished Professor at the University of Kansas School of Law, said that “there would be at least a potential challenge available to opponents of those kinds of restrictions.”

Where can I find the full report on Kansas abortion statistics?

The 2021 report we used for this article is available at this link.

Older reports are available via the Kansas Government Information Online Library at this link.

Have a question we didn’t answer here? Let us know.

Cast your ballot in the Aug. 2 election

You can quickly request an advance ballot to be mailed to you at KSVotes.org. The last day to request a mail ballot is July 26.

To see what’s on the ballot, visit this link. For information about voting early in person, visit this link. Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Election Day, Tuesday, Aug. 2.

* We are not election workers *

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Video: How they’re voting on Aug. 2

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Proponents call it the “Value them Both” amendment. These women would dispute that characterization. And much misinformation has swirled around the amendment ahead of Tuesday’s election.

Who’s getting abortions in Kansas? Plus more FAQs ahead of the Aug. 2 vote

Share this post or save for later

On Tuesday, Aug. 2, voters statewide will decide on an issue that could permanently change Kansans’ health care rights.
Who’s getting abortions in Kansas? Here are some stats, plus answers to some FAQs about the amendment vote and what it means.

More coverage: August 2 Election

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Mackenzie Clark (she/her), reporter/founder of The Lawrence Times, can be reached at mclark (at) lawrencekstimes (dot) com or 785-422-6363. Read more of her work for the Times here. Check out her staff bio here.

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