On June 1, Speaker Mike O'Neal (R-Hutchinson) announced his retirement from the Kansas House of Representatives after nearly three decades in the Legislature. It's been a banner year for O'Neal. In early January, he was shamed into a public apology for forwarding an e-mail that suggested a physical comparison between the Grinch Who Stole Christmas and First Lady Michelle Obama, or "Mrs. YoMama," as the e-mail referred to her.
Not long after, O'Neal found himself in hot water for circulating another Obama-related e-mail. The message cited a Bible verse, Psalms 109:8: "Let his days be few and brief; and let others step forward to replace him."
O'Neal — that rascal — wrote in the accompanying text: "At last — I can honestly voice a Biblical prayer for our president! Look it up — it is word for word! Let us all bow our heads and pray. Brothers and Sisters, can I get an AMEN? AMEN!!!!!!"
Under fire for the comments — 30,000 petition signatures calling for his resignation were quickly rounded up — O'Neal apologized again and explained that he was not casually praying for the death of the president of the United States. No, he was just commenting on Obama's remaining days in office — you know, like the next line of the Psalm says: "May his children be fatherless and his wife a widow." No, nothing casual about that.
If there's something O'Neal loathes with as much furious passion as the Obamas and their big-government agenda, it's that women in his state are legally allowed to make personal decisions about whether to have an abortion. In his emotional farewell speech, O'Neal spoke of being born in "inner Kansas City" and brought to a small town in western Kansas by his adoptive parents. It wasn't until years later, he told his colleagues in the House, that the full significance of his adoption sank in.
"I realized how close I had come to being just another Missouri abortion statistic," he said, having apparently determined that Muck Fizzou Babykillers lacked the rhetorical gravitas he sought to convey.
No longer an endangered fetus, the House speaker has presided over a Republican majority increasingly hellbent on eroding women's reproductive rights. Gov. Sam Brownback has consistently promised to sign any abortion restriction that crosses his desk, and O'Neal's House has rubber-stamped virtually every piece of anti-abortion legislation brought to the floor. Only moderate Senate Republicans — an endangered species — stand in the way of making Kansas the Wire-Hanger State.
Some of these rollbacks are already quietly in effect or are soon to be law. Other, more sweeping ones will be introduced in the 2013 session. What does this mean for the women of Kansas? Read on for an unnerving tour of reproductive rights in the Sunflower State.
Laws Already in Effect
The 2011 Kansas legislative session was arguably more of an assault on women's reproductive rights than the one that just finished. Some lowlights you might have missed if you weren't paying close attention:
• H.B. 2218: Bans abortions after the 21st week of pregnancy except in cases where an immediate danger is posed to the woman's life.
Translation: Only a small number of abortions occur after 21 weeks, but when they do, they're typically for women who discover serious health complications with the baby. (A number of medical issues are not detectable by ultrasound until around week 20.) Abortion opponents claim that a fetus can feel pain at the 20th week — a position disputed by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and numerous other nonpartisan medical organizations.
• H.B. 2035: Before terminating the pregnancy of a minor, doctors must obtain consent from both parents (if still married).
• H.B. 2075: Prohibits any private insurance company from covering an abortion except in cases where that abortion is performed to save the life of the mother. Requires policyholders to purchase a separate insurance rider for coverage.
Translation: Surprising (read: not surprising) to see the state dictating what private companies can and cannot insure. Also, unintended pregnancies and fetal anomalies are not the types of things people tend to plan for. Also, there are no exceptions for rape or incest.