Growing Up in the Heartland: Gun Control and Abortion Access in Kansas

Posted July 26, 2016 by Emma Barnett

 

While scrolling through my Facebook timeline, I couldn’t help but notice the same status being reposted multiple times. In fact, this status has been shared on my timeline once every few days for the last few months. Here it is.

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I grew up in Kansas, in a small town that’s about as wholesome as they come. My childhood was spent playing in corn fields and entering baked goods into the Kansas State Fair. I grew up without a care in the world; wanting for nothing. It wasn’t until I left that I saw the oppression people face outside of my sheltered view. Specifically, I was shocked by the reproductive oppression that exists in my state and many other conservative states like it. While there are many forms of reproductive oppression, perhaps the most talked about is abortion.

So I decided to do a little research. You see, I’ve never gotten an abortion, nor have I purchased a firearm, but I know both are a constitutional right. I figured I’d focus on obtaining both an abortion and a firearm in my home state and see where I got. I was in for some shocking results.

I started by searching, “how to buy a gun in Kansas.” Original, I know. I was met with a multitude of resources, from where to buy a firearm, to how much it would cost, to restrictions (or lack thereof).  I learned that the state has some of the least restrictive gun laws in the country. In fact, in 2015 Kansas received an “F” rating from the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence because of our relaxed firearm laws.  The state  does not require gun owners to obtain a license, register their firearms, or report lost or stolen firearms. Background checks are not required if the sale is done between private sellers. There is no waiting period, no limit on the amount of firearms one can purchase, and no regulation on assault rifles, 50 caliber rifles, large capacity ammunition magazines. Additionally, no permit is required for those 21 and older to carry a concealed weapon in public.

Just to confirm my findings, I called the Kansas Attorney General’s Office to ask some questions. After a very friendly Midwest welcome from an employee named Marge, I asked what the process was like buying a firearm. Marge kindly told me the process is “fool proof.” No action with the state government was needed.  I could walk into Walmart right now and buy a gun, provided I pass the background check. Of course if I didn’t want to go through the hassle of a background check I could just buy a gun through a private seller.

Dumbfounded, I hung up the phone. I have seen the destruction these objects can do. I live in a constant state of fear that someone will open fire on me and my family in public. I get uneasy in movie theaters. I am always aware of the nearest exit in crowded places. Sometimes I dream I am running down the street and bullets are ricocheting around me. When I wake I am unsure of reality.

Slightly shaken, I moved on to researching what accessing an abortion looks like in the Sunflower state. Surely, if the state government of Kansas was so removed from the process of buying a firearm, they would remove themselves from a person’s decision to have an abortion?

The first step to obtaining an abortion in Kansas was finding the nearest clinic. There are three clinics in Kansas that provide abortion services. There is one in Wichita and two in Kansas City. Geographically, these clinics are not accessible to a lot of the state. For example, traveling from St Francis to Kansas City is a 7 hour drive.

I called my insurance provider to see if elective abortion care is covered. We have comprehensive medical insurance through a private insurance provider. The representative seemed a little shocked when I asked if abortion was covered in my plan, almost like she had never been asked before.  She asked me where I wanted to get the procedure done and my reasoning behind wanting an abortion. After being put on hold for several minutes, the representative responded that in 2012 a state law was passed that prohibits any insurance provider from covering abortion with the exception that the person’s life is in danger. Private insurance providers can provide a rider if they choose that will cover elective abortions, but most do not because it is very expensive. My insurance plan would not cover any type of abortion unless my life was in danger. Lastly, she told me to have a nice day.

After figuring out I would have to pay between $650-$900 out of pocket to end a pregnancy, I started looking into other restrictions decided by state lawmakers.  In order to end a pregnancy, a 24 hour waiting period is enacted and for those under 18 a consent from must be signed and notarized by a parent. A mandatory ultrasound (with image provided) is performed.

Before the procedure, one must receive state-directed counseling that includes information designed to discourage a person from having an abortion. The written material given includes medically inaccurate information such as the ability of the fetus to feel pain, the fact that personhood begins at conception,  the heightened risk of infertility, the heightened risk of breast cancer, and the negative emotional response one will experience after the abortion.

These restrictions don’t even start to address the lack of accessibility to abortion care. Besides the out of pocket cost, a person must figure out transportation to the clinic, childcare, and time off of work.

I wish I could say it’s only in Kansas that it’s easier to obtain a gun than an abortion. However, we know this isn’t the case. States all over are relaxing their gun laws while continuing to restrict a person’s right to a safe and legal abortion. In 2015, 25 other states received an “F” rating along with Kansas for having atrocious gun laws. Additionally, 35 states have some kind of insurance restrictions on abortion care.

These findings are incredibly disappointing, but our voices will not be silenced. Although our lawmakers are confused on what autonomy is, the reproductive justice movement is not. Our state government (and federal government in many instances) feels they can pick and choose what constitutional rights to uphold and what to restrict. This is a poor example of representation. Why do we restrict access to the personal choices one makes about their body, but don’t restrict the use of deadly weapons? Not all constitutional rights are being treated equally here, folks. Remember that.