Kansas may be outlier in national decrease in abortions since Dobbs decision

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Statistics from 2022 still haven’t been released, but surge in out-of-state abortion seekers is expected

TOPEKA — One year after federal abortion protections were removed, the reproductive rights debate in Kansas remains contentious. 

On June 24, 2022, the U.S. Supreme Court released its decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, overturning the federal right to terminate pregnancy. Abortion-rights advocates called the ruling dangerous rollback of reproductive rights.

For Republican Attorney General Kris Kobach, on the other hand, the ruling is a cause for celebration. To mark Dobbs’ anniversary, Kobach announced he would co-host a multistate pregnancy center donation drive “in celebration of the one-year anniversary.” 

“Pregnancy resource centers provide free and continued support to women, their babies born and unborn, and their families. Most importantly, they save lives,” Kobach said in his Tuesday announcement. “Please consider blessing a family by contributing to a local crisis pregnancy center today.”

While Republicans in the Legislature have tried to divert $2 million from the state budget into crisis pregnancy centers, the attempt was shot down by Gov. Laura Kelly, who vetoed the provision.  The attempt was one of several bills through which the GOP-controlled Legislature tried to chip away at abortion protections, despite widespread Kansan support for reproductive rights.

Other proposals include a “Born Alive” bill passed by Legislature that promotes the inaccurate idea that “failed abortions” are performed on infants, and an “abortion reversal” law that is currently in court. That law would require abortion providers  to tell patients the abortion pill can be reversed, a dangerous proposition based on junk science.

Rep. Christiana Haswood, a Lawrence Democrat who attended a June 14 reproductive rights conference at the White House, discussed national and state strategies to safeguard reproductive health care against a prominent anti-abortion faction in the Legislature.  

Haswood said she was frustrated with Indigenous communities and other minority groups being left out of the conversation. Research has suggested that people of color and people under the poverty line are most affected by abortion restrictions, though the full impact of Dobbs isn’t known yet.

“This rhetoric of pro-life and how someone’s religious beliefs is guiding their policy decisions is a colonial concept to me,” Haswood said. “And the continuation of colonization being forced on other folks. That is adding to my anger when we are dealing with reproductive care, that this one belief is saying that we should all do what they believe in, and that’s not how I want to see the future of Kansas and the future of our country.” 

Since the Dobbs ruling, 15 states have enacted full or partial abortion bans while others have implemented restrictions such as gestational limits.

Alison Norris, a professor at Ohio State’s colleges of Public Health and Medicine and co-chair of the research steering committee of #WeCount, a national abortion reporting project, said abortion numbers have decreased after Dobbs.

During a Wednesday Sciline briefing on reproductive rights, Norris estimated more than 900,000 people have an abortion in the U.S. every year. 

In Kansas, where abortion rights are still protected, a surge in the procedure is predicted for the 2022 year due to out-of-state abortion seekers. Several of Kansas’ neighboring states, including Oklahoma, Missouri and Arkansas, have banned abortion, and Nebraska has a 12-week ban.

Kansas’ legal abortion threshold remains at 22 weeks, except in cases where the mother’s life is in danger. The Kansas Department of Health and Environment hasn’t released the 2022 annual abortion data yet— in an unusual delay of statistics — but last year’s report showed 7,849 abortion procedures in Kansas in 2021. 

“Americans have a wide range of feelings about abortion,” Norris said. “Many of them are complex. Abortion in America is highly stigmatized, highly politicized, very common and very safe. One in five American women will have an abortion in their lifetimes.”

After collecting abortion numbers from 82% of the abortion providers in the U.S., the #WeCount team found states with abortion bans had 66,000 fewer clinician-provided abortions in the nine months since Dobbs than would have been expected. In states with six-week abortion bans, during the months the bans were in effect 16,000 fewer clinician-provided abortions were provided than expected.

Norris said thousands of people seeking abortions had seen their lives disrupted by Dobbs. The team also found states that permitted abortion had an increase of about 56,000 more abortions compared with pre-Dobbs numbers. 

“Overall, there’s still 25,000 fewer abortions in the US in the nine months post Dobbs than would have been expected,” Norris said. “In other words, the increases in some states is not sufficient to make up for the losses in other states.”

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: info@kansasreflector.com. Follow Kansas Reflector on Facebook and Twitter.

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