Tag Archive: Proposed laws and legislation

Restrictive Abortion Law in Kansas

Kansas is set to enact one of the most restrictive and sweeping anti-abortion laws in the country. The Kansas bill states that life begins at fertilization and imposes a number of new abortion regulations. Specifically, the bill prohibits employees of abortion clinics such as Planned Parenthood from providing sex education in schools; bans tax credits for abortion services; requires health care clinics to give details to women about fetal development and abortion health risks; and bans abortions based solely on the gender of the fetus.

Despite the controversy surrounding the bill, the Kansas House voted ninety to thirty for the bill; hours earlier, the state Senate approved the bill by twenty-eight to ten. Governor Sam Brownback is a strong anti-abortion leader and he is widely expected to sign the bill into law within the next few days. The new restrictions will go into effect on July 1, 2013. Critics of the bill argue that it will be harmful to women. For instance, Kansas Senator David Haley, a Democrat who opposed the bill, argues that advocates of the bill were pursuing a “Taliban-like” course by letting religious views dominate the debate; he further argues that the law would limit women’s ability to make decisions about health care and reproduction decisions. Haley also contends that some health care providers might interpret the provision specifying that life begins at fertilization as a ban on birth control.

In Planned Parenthood v. Casey, 505 U.S. 833 (1992), the United States Supreme Court held that regulations that place a substantial burden on a woman’s right to have an abortion are unconstitutional. According to the Kansas City Star editorial board, the Kansas bill is one of the most punitive abortion bills in the country because the bill (1) places additional financial hardships on women; (2) forces doctors to disseminate misleading information; (3) puts schools in a difficult legal position; (4) denies tax breaks to any health care facility affiliated with abortion services; (4) forces physicians to consider a patient’s motives for seeking an abortion due to the gender-specific abortion provision; and (5) the bill is intended to “harass abortion providers, patients and other entitles, like schools, which are caught in the middle.” For these reasons, the Kansas bill would likely be deemed an undue burden on abortion rights.

The Kansas anti-abortion law highlights the growing trend of states either enacting or considering anti-abortion legislation. According to the Guttmacher Institute, there was not a single significant measure adopted by any state to expand access to abortion in 2012. The Guttmacher report notes that nineteen states adopted forty-three new provisions restricting abortion access in 2012. This trend has unmistakably continued in 2013. In recent months, Arkansas legislators enacted a ban on abortions after the twelfth week of pregnancy and lawmakers in North Dakota enacted an anti-abortion law that sets the limit at six weeks.

Arizona’s Proposed Bathroom Law and Transgender Rights

Arizona lawmakers are considering legislation that would make it a criminal offense for transgender people to use public restrooms not associated with their birth gender. The proposed bill created so much controversy that it had to be delayed. Specifically, the proposed bill provides: “[A] person commits disorderly conduct if they intentionally enter a public restroom, bathroom, shower, bath, dressing room or locker room, and a sign indicates that the room is exclusively for the use of one sex, and that person is not legally classified as a member of that sex on their birth certificate.” The proposed bill makes a violation of the law a Class 1 misdemeanor that could include up to six months in prison or $2,500 in fines.  The bill provides exceptions for persons who enter as part of their job responsibilities; persons who enter to give aid or assistance to another; a child in need of assistance; and persons who are physically disabled.

The proposed bill was largely in response to a human rights ordinance passed by the Phoenix City Council that prohibits gender identity discrimination at public accommodations. State Representative John Kavanagh, who has spearheaded the proposed legislation, argues that the state should not allow people to use facilities based on “what you think you are.” He justifies the proposed law by claiming, “This law simply restores the law of society: Men are men and women are women … For a handful of people to make everyone else uncomfortable just makes no sense.”

There are a number of interesting concerns that this bill raises. One of the chief concerns is how the law would be enforced. Some commentators have aptly noted that the law essentially requires showing papers just to use the bathroom. According to Representative Kavanagh, police officers would have to make judgment calls about when to enforce the law. Another concern with the proposed law is the negative impact it would have on transgender people. According to a recent National Gay and Lesbian Task Force study, fifty-three percent of transgender people report being harassed or disrespected in public accommodations. One commentator cleverly concludes, “The government should keep politics out of the bathroom and focus on other issues. The only ‘papers’ that anyone should have to worry about in the bathroom are Charmin and Angel Soft.”

The debate over the proposed bill also highlights the increased national discussion over transgender rights in recent months. Earlier this year, a six-year old transgender girl in Colorado filed a complaint with the Colorado Division of Civil Rights after her school barred her from using the female restroom after allowing her to do so for a year.

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