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Abortion in Kansas: "It's A Trap!"
For "Star Wars" fans, it's one of the top quotes of the "original trilogy," perhaps only eclipsed by "Luke... I am your father." Without too much detail: The Rebel Alliance is launching an assault on the newer, bigger "Death Star" space station, thinking that is not yet operational. When a huge laser blast erupts from the surface of the station, taking out one of the larger Rebel ships, they realize that the station, while not yet complete, is fully operational. Admiral Ackbar makes his legendary exclamation.
The "trap" that conservative theocrats (mostly, but not all, evangelical Christians) have sprung on Kansas this year is just as powerful as the dreaded Death Star... and just as callous in its regard for "safety" or "human life." The whole purpose of this new law is to stop abortion--without prohibiting abortion.
Barry Yeoman's article, "Quiet War on Abortion," was originally published in Mother Jones magazine about ten years ago--but the strategy exposed by Yeoman has been growing ever since, and it has now finally made it's way into Kansas.
One of the most popular methods has been through laws that pro-choice advocates call Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers (TRAP). Pioneered in the mid-1990s by South Carolina and Mississippi, the laws apply licensing requirements specifically to abortion clinics, but not to other facilities that perform similar or riskier procedures. The laws vary from state to state, but often include building regulations that specify ceiling heights, hallway and doorway widths, counseling-room dimensions, air-circulation rates, outdoor weed-control practices, and separate changing rooms for men. Some require the purchase of expensive supplies not normally used in clinics, such as general anesthesia equipment. Others mandate staffing levels above those usually needed for first-trimester abortions. Missouri, for example, requires a registered nurse on staff when most clinics rely on less-expensive licensed practical nurses.
It's really pretty effective, when you think about it. First, get a new law enacted that requires a clinic to have, say, the equivalent of 1,000 sq. ft. of space for every patient bed. Give them a really, really tight schedule to meet the requirements--say, six months--and then watch the fun ensue. Even if they can come up with the funding to buy the land for a new clinic... how can they possibly expect to find a building contractor with that kind of gaping hole in their schedule?
Whether it's requiring unusually large amounts of floor space... excessive staff members on duty.... or 18K gold toilet paper holders in all the restrooms, the key to this kind of legislation is that none of it directly addresses abortion itself.
Imagine, if you will, that we required new building standards for gun dealers. People get hit by stray bullets all the time--we should protect people! "Anyone inside the gun shop [including Walmart--they do sell guns!] should be required to wear a Kevlar vest, helmet, and eye protection at all times. Customers must be provided with these items in a small anteroom before actually entering the sales area. Furthermore, to reduce the risk of stray bullets accidentally going through the walls of the store: All outer walls must be no less than 18 standard inches in thickness. The walls must be constructed of reinforced concrete, with a 4 inch thick plate of steel in the center of each wall. All gun retailers must comply with this new regulation in 3 months."
I would never support such ridiculous legislation. I would never want that foolishness inflicted on any law-abiding, responsible gun dealer or gun owner.
Neither do I support targeted regulation of abortion providers. Women with unwanted pregnancies--especially victims of rape or incest--feel "trapped" enough already.
Abortion should be legal... rare... and safe. I don't believe for a moment that the Kansas legislators who voted for their ridiculous laws earlier this year ever had anyone's "safety" in mind.