Kansas HAYS The eastern portion of the state, in Wichita, is home to Kansas’ westernmost abortion facility. Therefore, the travel time to the closest clinic from Hays or Dodge City is more than 2.5 hours.
The nearest abortion facility for Kansans who live further west is hundreds of miles away in another state.
For residents in Colby and Oberlin, the closest choice is a clinic close to Denver. There is one in Colorado Springs for people in Leoti and Syracuse. A clinic in Santa Fe, New Mexico is roughly as far away from the hamlet of Elkhart in southwest Kansas as the clinic in Wichita is.
According to Jack Teter, regional director of governmental affairs for Planned Parenthood in Colorado, there are some people in western Kansas who are sort of already residing in this post-Roe reality. Although legal in Kansas, access to abortion does not necessarily follow.
Tens of thousands of people in western Kansas already live in a world that pro-abortion rights supporters in eastern Kansas worry might be their future, even before Kansans decide the future of the state’s abortion rights with Tuesday’s constitutional amendment vote. And that imperfect reality can provide a hint as to how the outcome of the vote might alter living in cities like Kansas City or Lawrence.
Patients that go from Kansas are already treated at such facilities in Colorado Springs and Denver, which are run by Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains . Despite the fact that abortion is permitted in both states, 33 of them visited last year.
He anticipates that number to rise sharply if Kansas follows the pattern of Texas and Oklahoma and other states with abortion prohibitions, such as those that have recently had a spike of patients from other states.
We’re not making up potential outcomes, Teter claimed. We can see it taking place.
For instance, in the entire year 2021, Planned Parenthood centers in Colorado saw about 400 patients from Texas. Every two weeks, 400 Texas residents request appointments, according to the current situation.
About 1,500 patients traveled from other states to the Colorado clinics overall last year. However, about 500 out-of-state patients have made appointments over the last two weeks.
That puts the clinics on track to get 13,000 out-of-state patients’ requests per year. That would be almost nine times as many patients from outside the state as they saw the previous year.
According to Teter, it often takes two to three days to get an appointment at one of Planned Parenthood’s Colorado locations. Now has been three weeks.
Teter claimed that it is not sustainable. If Kansas chooses to approve this ballot initiative, it will become even less sustainable.
The chain reaction
Recently, Kansas abortion clinics have experienced a surge in patients from Texas and other states like Oklahoma. Therefore, if Kansas outlaws abortion even if the amendment is approved, lawmakers would still need to enact new regulations, which would drive more patients from nearby areas to Colorado.
Teter stated that the Colorado clinics intend to address this rising demand, whether it entails adding additional personnel or having current personnel put in more overtime. He said that Planned Parenthood would keep helping out-of-state patients who can’t afford to travel with gas, lodging, and appointment costs.
Elizabeth Nash, a state policy analyst with the Guttmacher Institute , a research organization that promotes abortion rights, claims that when more states in the middle of the country outlaw abortion, it has a cascading effect that exacerbates the obstacles people in locations like western Kansas already face.
Every time a state outlaws abortion, Nash said, there are significant knock-on effects. It lengthens the distance and reduces the number of clinics, which lengthens the wait time.
If Kansas outlaws abortion, Topeka and Kansas City residents would have to travel to Nebraska or Iowa to find the closest abortion clinics.
Nash, however, does not view those states as safe havens for lengthy abortions. She claimed that both might put their respective prohibitions into force in the upcoming months, possibly even before the possible Kansas ban takes effect.
The closest clinic to Lawrence would be more than four hours away in Illinois, so someone in Lawrence could have a lengthier drive to seek an abortion than someone in Colby or Leoti.
The closest option for someone in Wichita would require a six-and-a-half-hour travel to the same Illinois clinic.
And if the amendment passes, Nash believes that will occur in Kansas based on what she has observed in other states.
Alabama enacted an equivalent constitutional amendment ( approved ) in 2018 and an abortion ban in 2019. In Tennessee, an amendment that passed in 2014 prepared the ground for the state’s impending abortion prohibition that goes into effect .
According to Nash, a proposed ban in Kansas would also disproportionately hurt Black women, who are three times more likely than white women and persons in poverty to pass away during pregnancy. About aa8 of Americans who seek abortions are categorized as having low incomes.
According to Nash, people who are wealthier, whiter, and/or have more resources go to another state, even if it is three states away, when a state forbids abortion.
not going to give way
Numerous pro-abortion activists hold homemade signs as they stand in line at Hays’ main junction on a hot July Saturday. The contrast between the groups’ slogans is demonstrated by the honking of support and the revving of engines of disdain.
Tracie Baalman, a resident of Hays, is seated behind the main line of protesters on the sidewalk. She has an umbrella in one hand that she uses to protect herself from the sun. She is holding a piece of cardboard with the words “Keep your laws off my uterus” painted on it in one hand.
She said that the amendment decision was a matter of life or death for her since spinal and blood clotting issues may render pregnancy lethal.
Baalman warned that if the choice came down to me or the child, he would have to make it. How could I do that if abortion was prohibited?
She would already need to travel hours to the nearest Kansas clinic, like everyone else in western Kansas. She is concerned about what it may mean if abortion is made illegal statewide, especially for poor women.
My monthly salary is less than $400. Baalman stated, “There’s no way I could go (out of state) to get a legal abortion. I was unable to travel. I would therefore pass away.
The opposition to the amendment, however, will be difficult for Western Kansans to win.
In Ellis County, where Hays is located, which is in Western Kansas, 70% of voters supported Donald Trump in the 2020 election. Additionally, both the Latino community in southwest Kansas and the descendants of Volga German immigrants in northwest Kansas are strongly influenced by the local Catholic church.
The Kansas Supreme Court overturned restrictions on abortion in 2019 after finding that the state constitution contains abortion rights, according to supporters of the constitutional amendment such as the Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains 1 group.
Without the amendment, the coalition’s website cautions, Kansas risked adopting the same practice as New York or California, where late-term abortions were paid for with tax dollars.
However, Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains 2 is done in a number of ways by current Kansas statutes. After 22 weeks of pregnancy, abortions are illegal in Kansas unless the patient’s health is in danger. Prior to their procedure, patients must have an ultrasound and get pre-procedure counseling. Except in cases of rape, incest, or life-threatening crises, no public money is used on abortions.
According to a recent Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains 3, the amendment vote will be tight, with 47% of Kansans stating they intend to vote to strike abortion rights from the state constitution and 43% indicating they intend to vote against it.
Western Kansas, however, is the region of the state where the amendment is most popular. 52 percent of those polled in the congressional district of the region said they would support it.
However, proponents of abortion rights in this region of the state promise to do anything they can to assist patients in rural areas who want to obtain those services.
For instance, Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains 4 is the only group that offers 24-hour sexual violence care for an area of 18 counties in northwest Kansas, which is about the same size as Maryland and New Jersey put together. Therefore, many of its patients must travel a great distance just to receive a medical assessment following a sexual assault, much mind an abortion.
The amendment, according to executive director Jennifer Hecker, would pave the way for legislation that makes abortions illegal even in circumstances of rape and incest.
That’s morally repugnant, Hecker added. And that is the situation we find ourselves in.
She stated that regardless of whether patients have the funds to travel, Options intends to continue assisting patients in receiving any medical services they require, including emergency contraception and abortion.
even if it takes more than two hours to drive a patient to Wichita or five hours to drive them to Denver.
She claimed that because staff members deliberately avoid inquiring about individuals’ reasons for visiting a drugstore or clinic, Options does not keep track of the number of patients it connects with emergency contraception or abortion services. She is also concerned that further governmental limits on abortion would ultimately require women to respond to questions of such nature in order to control access to health care.
She added that Options does not intend to discontinue providing patient transportation to medical appointments anytime soon, regardless of the outcome of the Aug. 2 referendum, and regardless of the state in which the patient resides.
Hecker said that there will be pressure to, but I won’t give in.
For Kansas News Service and High Plains Public Radio, David Condos reports on the western part of the state. On Twitter, he goes under the handle Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains 5.
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