Stigma on Steroids: On Kansas Banning Abortion Providers From Schools
No school district, employee or agent thereof, or educational service provider contracting with such school district shall provide abortion services. No school district shall permit any person or entity to offer, sponsor or otherwise furnish in any manner any course materials or instruction relating to human sexuality or sexually transmitted diseases if such person or entity is an abortion services provider, or an employee, agent or volunteer of an abortion services provider.
The above provision is contained in a nearly 50-page bill that recently went into effect in Kansas. (A judge temporarily blocked two other provisions of the law, but allowed this one to remain.)
To be sure, the relentless assault on abortion that we are currently seeing in other state legislatures— Texas, Ohio, and North Carolina, among others—are far more consequential in the short run. Ambulatory surgical center (ASC) and hospital admitting privilege requirements really do have the capacity to shut down clinics. Should the Texas bill currently being considered become law—as is likely, despite the heroic efforts of the thousands of orange-shirters gathered at the capitol—the number of Texas abortion facilities would go from 47 to five in that huge state. Already, due to a similar ASC requirement, earlier rammed through the Pennsylvania legislature as a cynical response to the Gosnell scandal, a number of clinics in Pennsylvania have closed. And the bans on abortions after 20 weeks, adopted by a number of states, will affect a relatively small number of women, but typically those in desperate medical and/or social condition.
But other provisions of abortion legislation, of which the Kansas one cited above is a prime example, do a different kind of damage. They further the stigmatization and marginalization of abortion providers by making clear that these individuals are not welcome in that most central of community institutions: the schools. It is not just participation in sex education from which Kansas providers are barred. As Stephanie Toti, senior attorney at the Center for Reproductive Rights, which is challenging this law, told me, "This is unprecedented discrimination against abortion providers. ... The prohibition on providers serving as 'agents' of a school district has the effect of barring them from serving as chaperones on field trips and engaging in most other volunteer activities."
So abortion providers are at this moment banned from Kansas schools—and supposedly this will promote the safety of adult women getting abortions, as is the typical sanctimonious rationalization of the various laws we are seeing.