Ashley All: Lawmakers are ignoring Kansas voters, interfering in our private medical decisions (Column)

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Note: The Lawrence Times runs opinion columns written by community members with varying perspectives on local issues. Occasionally, we’ll also pick up columns from other nearby news outlets. These pieces do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Times staff.

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Less than 12 hours after the race was called Aug. 2 in favor of freedom, I was on a media call with my colleague Rachel Sweet and roughly 50 local, state and national reporters to discuss this historic victory. We had both worked to defeat an anti-abortion amendment to the Kansas constitution, and our side had prevailed. The win was fresh, and we were still in shock at the margin.

Having mostly lost my voice from dozens of interviews the previous day and running on only three hours of sleep, the experience was a blur of questions I’ve mostly forgotten.

Yet one question remains crystalized in my memory: Do you think this will put an end to the attempts by anti-abortion politicians to interfere in the private lives of Kansas citizens? Rachel and I responded in unison: absolutely not.

After decades of extreme rhetoric and violence, we knew anti-abortion activists and politicians would continue to look for new ways to limit access to abortion and take away our constitutional rights. Regardless of what voters had said that day, they would still look for deceptive ways to take away our freedom to make our own private medical decisions. But back in August, I could not have envisioned the extreme overreach that legislators would attempt during the 2023 legislative session.

Despite the important issues facing our state — from jobs to health care to schools — certain anti-abortion lawmakers in Topeka have focused primarily on interfering in the private lives of more than a million Kansans.

They have pushed legislation that would criminalize abortion, target doctors and patients, allow people to sue Kansans who access abortion care, limit physicians’ ability to help vulnerable women through telemedicine, ban the safe medication needed to end a pregnancy early, and meddle in private medical decisions regarding the most complicated and heartbreaking cases.

And, if that weren’t enough, we have an activist attorney general interfering in our health care, dictating which prescriptions can be sent to Kansans and threatening pharmacists. Kris Kobach wants to make our private medical decisions for us. Last time I checked, he is not a medical doctor or a pharmacist. It is terrifying and should alarm every Kansan who cares about reproductive freedom, personal autonomy and privacy.

All this is happening just eight months after a massive vote to protect the constitutional rights of Kansans to make their own private medical decisions about pregnancy and abortion.

For months leading up to that vote, we were told that we must listen to the people. In June 2022, Senate President Ty Masterson told reporters that “it’s not what lawmakers would like to do, it is what the people would like to do” and that “it’s the people of Kansas’ decision.” And former attorney general and Republican candidate for governor Derek Schmidt said that “we have to listen to what voters say at the ballot box.”

Well, Kansas voters made their decision clear in August — rejecting the amendment 59% to 41%. That is a landslide victory in favor of choice and personal autonomy. Kansans voted no on giving “elected state representatives and state senators” more power to “pass laws regarding abortion.” Those were the exact words of the constitutional amendment.

The message was crystal clear. Yet at every turn, politicians have ignored the will of the people and tried to insert themselves into the private medical decisions of Kansas citizens.

These extreme politicians think they know better than we do what our families needs to stay safe and healthy. I beg to differ. I know how to love and care for my five children. When they need medical care, I will take them to their doctor — not to my state legislator.

If we hope to protect our personal liberty and freedom, we must stand up for these shared values. If politicians succeed in taking control of our medical decisions, there’s no telling what they will do next. Will they ask our daughters for menstrual records when they get to high school? Will they force kids to be physically examined? Will they make us get state approval for birth control? Will they force me to risk my life to carry a dying baby?

All Kansans deserve the freedom to make our own decisions about our medical care and that of our family. We have a constitutional right to control our body. We deserve privacy. Politicians in Topeka should stop this extreme campaign of government overreach.

— Ashley All has spent two decades working in Kansas politics and public policy. She served as communications director for the Kansas attorney general and later as communication director for Gov. Laura Kelly. Most recently, Ashley served as spokesperson for Kansans for Constitutional Freedom – the coalition that secured a landslide victory for reproductive rights in August 2022. She is a sixth-generation Kansan and lives in Lawrence with her husband and five children.

Through its opinion section, the Kansas Reflector works to amplify the voices of people who are affected by public policies or excluded from public debate. Find information, including how to submit your own commentary, here. Find how to submit your own commentary to The Lawrence Times here.

Kansas Reflector is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Kansas Reflector maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Sherman Smith for questions: Follow Kansas Reflector on Facebook and Twitter.

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