Hello Kansas reflector fans. I'm Rachel NEWPRO. And I'm here today with Chloe Chaffin, the program lead out loud light and the chapter president of Washburn urge, which is unite for reproductive and gender equity, along with Leslie Bush, Field Director with the ACLU of Kansas. Today, we're gonna be discussing abortion legislation and the general scope of abortion in Kansas right now. So both of you guys are fairly well grounded in the whole reproductive rights fight. So just tell me how you got started with that work? We can begin with Chloe?
Yeah, so for me, I think it's a story much like any other young activist of my age, I was always interested in this like academically and in high school, I got involved with debate and forensics. And though I was already quite familiar with a lot of these issues that really grew my scope and interest of researching these related topics. Then I came to Washburn University where I'm currently a student now, particularly because I wanted to be involved in politics and wanted to be in the capital city. And once I got here, I got involved with wildlife, which really grew my advocacy skills, where I serve as the program lead, like you said, and then through coalition membership with wildlife, I was able to meet the folks that urged Kansas, who encouraged me to restart a chapter at Washburn University two years ago, where I've served as the chapter president ever since. And so it's just been this wonderful network of other engaged Kansans, who have kind of showed me the ropes and to all those folks. I'm incredibly grateful. And lovely.
Yeah, so I actually got my start as a foster care case manager, I worked in southeast rural Kansas. And that was the first job I had out of college, it totally radicalized me and turned me into an organizer because I could see how policies impact everyday Kansans lives. And the families I worked with leaders needed a lot of support that the state wasn't giving them. My first organizer job was in the reproductive rights movement. So I got started at Planned Parenthood, Great Plains and 2018. And now I'm at ACLU, but really learned organizing, like, like Chloe just said, from organize your friends in the organizing ecosystem of Kansas and really took the roots of my social work job and figured out how do we actually change the policies and impact people's lives?
Now, both of you guys were involved with efforts to overturn or the linslade August abortion amendment. I mean, what was that? Like? How did you guys work on that? What were effective messages?
Yeah, so for me, it really started with urge advocacy on campus at Washburn. We participated in urges abortion positive tour last spring, where we had a week of speaker opportunities and tabling events, just to kind of get the word out and have folks sign pledge to vote cards to get ready and get folks aware of the primary election. And then from there, we went on to I volunteered at the Johnson County campaign kickoff event helped train some folks to canvass spent the summer canvassing myself just talking to friends and doing as much social media work as I could, both with the urge side of things for Washburn and then also with floodlights, phone a campaign as well.
Yeah, and I started working on the amendment, really, on April 27 2019, which was the day after the Kansas Supreme Court found the right to abortion in the Constitution with the whole use case. So I started doing constitutional amendment teachings to try to break down what we thought was going to happen, which didn't really happen. They introduced a constitutional amendment in the 2020 legislative session, but we defeated it that year. We had the votes to stop the amendment in the legislature. But of course, it passed in 2021. So yeah, most of 2021 was really laying the groundwork trying to break down the language of the amendment to call out its classist and racist implications for Kansans to really break down stigma around abortion care, normalize abortion care for Kansans to try to change the narrative. And that was all started really, even before we knocked her first door and made her first call asking folks to vote no. So this, that campaign has lasted years and in a way continues, because we obviously still have a lot of work to do and changing the narrative around abortion in Kansas. And what are you guys seeing today?
I mean, we're seeing a lot of legislature a lot of bills right now. And what's the general Kansas attitude towards abortion and reproductive rights?
Well, I think that obviously, if you look to the results of the August second election, the vast majority of Kansans do believe in the right to abortion in our state here. And so I think it's really important that we lead with that and lead with the just small d democracy side of things. But I think also with that, another concern I have is just with some of the bills that are coming out this session, there's trying to be a restructured narrative of who are the kinds of folks that have abortions and support abortions. And for me, what's really important to remind folks is just that whether or not you may be aware of it. All of us know and love somebody who has had an abortion. And it's not even necessarily folks that, like fit one particular demographic that support abortion. And then it's also folks that might be religious folks that work in child care folks that are already parents that are having and supporting others who are having abortions. And so we just need to keep that full scope of our identities aware and alive at the front of this conversation.
Yeah, absolutely a second everything Chloe said. Yeah, like they said, we it was a landslide victory. And Kansans came out and said, you know, and ideas around abortion can be really complicated and personal and unique to the individual. But also folks in Kansas said, we can't make that decision for someone else. And I think that while there's really a diversity of opinions about abortion care in Kansas, and that is still true. On August 2, we showed that no matter where your opinion lies, most folks still think that decision should be up to the individual and their doctor, their faith their family, and not up to politicians in Topeka. And that is something that we really came together on was that message that we should make these decisions for ourselves, and we trust our neighbors to make those decisions for themselves as well.
And you mentioned politicians in Topeka right now, some of the bills we're seeing are this idea of a born alive thing where some lawmakers believe that, or we just saw in the house that they passed legislation making. It's hard to even describe that. But basically, it's just saying that any infant born alive after a failed abortion needs to be given the proper reproductive care. I mean, does this actually happen or born alive babies, that
this bill is absolutely propaganda and not based in medical science? This spill is something that we've seen across the country. It's something that my friends in Missouri have seen. It's something that is really the it's a tool to rile up language and people's fears around abortion care. And the truth is the abortions that happen later in pregnancy, are typically really vulnerable situations that folks are in making maybe the toughest decision of their lives. And what these politicians are doing, are taking those extremely sensitive vulnerable scenarios that families are facing, and using them as a political football to rile up their bases. But this bill is not based in science.
I would absolutely agree. I also think that it's trying to switch the story to be about how one side wants to love and protect children, and one side does not. And I think that that's absolutely not the case. Personally, I am somebody who was raised in the church, as a person of faith. I am somebody who worked at and volunteered for many years in a daycare setting. And I've always loved children. And yet, I think that if we are going to talk about the way that we love children, we need to be looking at a reproductive justice framework, which means not just looking at abortion rights in a narrow sense, but about having safe communities where people can make and or not make the families that they choose. And I think a lot of these situations where there does need to be an abortion leader in pregnancy, like Leslie hinted that those are usually situations in which the pregnancy was wanted. And so to say that those folks that are choosing to make those personal vulnerable decisions are folks that just do not love children, can be very hurtful to people that are in one of the darkest days that they may ever face. And I think we need to keep in mind those people's right to autonomy rather than coming at them and trying to presuppose intentions that we just cannot know from the outside.
I think it's worth adding the you know, the amendment language was shrouded in that too. It started because Kansans value women and children. But the truth is that politicians in Topeka have a variety of ways to show that they value children and families and that includes things like expanding Medicaid or accessing the food sales tax or making sure that our public schools are protected. And we are seeing them chip away at all of those things that could actually have a real impact in the life of Kansans. And instead, they're focusing on exploiting really vulnerable stories.
And another thing I want to discuss just with bills, the legislature, and we're also seeing this abortion reversal legislation that is would make if it goes through and make on physicians in areas that provide abortion pill medication, put up notices in areas where the pills are provided, saying it's not too late to reverse this. I mean, it may be reversed. This could be possible, this might be an option. What do you think of this whole abortion reversal legislation?
So this bill, I saw this bill in 2019, and we were able to successfully defeat it because legislators saw that it wasn't based in real science. The medical community is in consensus that this is not based in science. The studies that are typically cited on this bill are not board approved us really small sample sizes. And so it's a really concerning bill and that way that it could really, if it were passed could really leave patients and abortion providers in a really vulnerable position to You'd really give misinformation to their patients. And I think it's also adding on to the fact that in Kansas, there are over 20, medically unnecessary restrictions to abortion care. And so this would be yet another restriction on abortion care. That's not just your normal regulation that we need on medical care, because it's medical care, but would be an additional restriction that is not needed and would put patients and doctors in a vulnerable place. What are some of the restrictions, waiting periods, font sizes, at the clinics, consent forms, most of them revolve around the patient who is seeking abortion care, the assumption is that they are not empowered to make a decision that's best for them. And so there is a lot of extra waiting time and paperwork involved to make it harder for them to access abortion care.
I think that that language is just dripping with guilt and accusation on the part of the lawmakers trying to tell people that they don't know what's best for them, which I think is such a shame. And also, when I see all these bills, it makes me think about, frankly, just the makeup of our current legislature, I think the benefit of having a citizen legislature as we do in Kansas, is that these folks should be able to represent the everyman come in with their diverse career experiences. But unfortunately, we have a lot of folks that come from a legal or business background. And while that means that they are very well versed and informed on certain issues that may affect our state, we don't have that representation of folks who are providers or folks who work in the medical industry to the level that we ought to to be able to make these decisions. Thus, it is incumbent on those policymakers to rely on the experts that come in and give testimony. And yet we see time and time again, that that has not been what they have shown us that they are willing to do. And so when we talk in this state about home rule and local control constantly, I just look to the August 2 election. And I think that we need to respect that decision that folks made. And then the same folks who propose that amendment, we're the folks that got to choose to have it on a primary election date, when there's typically low turnout, they got to choose the wording of that amendment. And we're in folks on the pro choice side of things, we're saying that that language was misleading and confusing. They deny that that was the intent. But when all of those things were in the control of folks who proposed the amendment, for them to now come back and say that folks didn't know what they were voting on. And that's why they are justifying all these new bills, to restrict the right to abortion in the state of Kansas. I just think that that is a little bit disingenuous, and it kind of it just hurts my heart as a Kansan, frankly,
why do we keep seeing these bills? Come back, you know, like, years and years, is a reason.
I mean, I think we knew that after August 2, they weren't going to say, okay, you know, we try it. And it's clear that Kansans feel this particular way. And now we're just going to respect that and leave it on the table. We knew that they were going to come back and continue to try to chip away at abortion rights, because the truth is, the amendment despite a lot of the misinformation about it was an attempt to ban abortion outright in Kansas. And we defeated that attempt. But we know that the fight is not over. Any of us who are organizers in Kansas know that every day is a new day where we must fight for a right to live our lives with dignity, and fight for fellow Kansans to live their lives with dignity and be able to choose what's best for them. So this is just another attempt, and they will we expect them to continue this
and both of you have been doing this work for a long time. It's it's mentally draining. How do you feel?
Oh, absolutely. I feel tired. But I'm also heartened by the results of August 2. And for me, I think that if Roe was precedent for half a century, and it was still hotly debated every single one of those 50 years, and it was overturned this past summer with Dobbs, I think that that's not going to end anytime soon. If 50 years wasn't long enough to settle the debate, I frankly don't know that it will ever be settled in my lifetime. And so on one hand, that can be frustrating at times. But on other days, that just gives me hope that we were able to protect it for as long as we were at the state of Kansas and was able to be the first in the nation to show folks on the national stage that we are not what they assume Kansas is and that we are a place that has loving empathetic people with progressive policies in mind.
Yeah, I agree. I mean, I see amazing things in Kansas every day. Especially, you know, I was really honored to be a part of the organizing around the amendment this summer and see, especially young people come and pick up and pick up skills and you know, like Chloe mentioned, like they put this on a primary the language was not of our choosing. It was incredibly confusing, by all means we played on their home field and we still won. And we also are more skilled up and more powerful than ever and every day. I see that being true because our coalition's are strong hunger? And are our skills are better. And we're even more prepared for next time.
So what is competing for you guys? Look right now? How do you lobby people toward the effort? How do you get people up divides? You? Oh, good.
Yeah, I think for me as a college student, that's kind of my home field, what I can work on is just focusing on the students at Washburn, and across the state of Kansas, and making sure that we are, as Leslie said, scaled up, I feel like that's the one silver lining is that we had this little advocacy boot camp for the past year, and we are stronger for it. And so I think that's exciting. But I think for a lot of people, for many years, it's kind of always been the assumption that young people, especially, you know, 18 to 25 years old, that they just don't care about politics, that they're just busy doing other things. But I think having this debate be so central to our lives over the past few years. If anything, it has made sure that Jen's ears are more likely to be engaged. And one thing that we always try to emphasize with my work with wildlife is that the best predictor of whether or not you vote when you're 50 isn't anything else other than the fact of whether or not you vote when you're 18. So since we are getting people in the gate so early, these folks are going to be in the advocacy pipeline their entire lives. And so that's at the end of the day, what's been giving me hope,
gives me hope to I see all and yeah, I would say, you know, the most important thing is just for everyone to find a political home. I mean, like you said, like these, these attacks, they hurt. I mean, I'm 30 years old, I'm gonna be making decisions about the future, my own family, probably next decade of my life. And I want to be in a state where I have access to all of the choices that should be available to me. And I want that for everyone. I want that for everyone. I live in Kansas. And so I think the most important thing when we have these tough days, and it feels like everything stacked against us is to find a political home where people love you and care about you and also and put that into action by working toward a better world. And maybe that's with wildlife. Maybe that's with me at ACLU. But there are so many organizations in the state that will welcome you, and find a place to put your skills and to me, that is the most important thing.
And we'll go back to what you guys are seeing this legislative session besides born alive and abortion reversal. Is there anything in particular that got your interest or anything you're worried about?
So for me, the other things that I would just highlight would be the tax credit debate around the pregnancy crisis centers, as well as the potential banned for telehealth abortion pills. I think those are really concerning as well. The first one would just be to funnel more state tax dollars into these centers that give them misleading information that is the run through the common thread or there's other bills we discussed, as well as with the telehealth abortion pills. I think that that's just such a big equity issue. Because when we have abortion bans, we know that they have a disproportionate impact on communities of color. And that also means leads into communities of poverty. Folks who don't have access to transportation, and throw everything that we've learned from the COVID pandemic, the one silver lining to that has been greater equity with digital resources, remote resources, and to have lawmakers try to take that away. It just means that the already racist impact of abortion bans is only going to be increasing the amount of magnified as legislation like that contingency continues to crop up and move forward.
Yeah, I second that the tax credits to crisis pregnancy centers is incredibly concerning. And I think it gets back to this theme of the lawmakers think that Kansans don't know what's best for them, because crisis pregnancy centers really exists to coerce patients out of making the decision that is best for them. Like I said, I used to work at Planned Parenthood and across the street, there's a crisis pregnancy center. And we would see patients accidentally go to that building all the time. And they exist really to coerce patients. So we don't want coercion, we want to be able to make decisions that are best for us. And we we do know what's best for us in Kansas. So these these bills are really concerning. And I think I would add to that. These also fall in line with the anti transgender bills that we're seeing the legislature the the gender affirming care, Ban, the sports span, all of these things sort of come back to the same issue of policy. Our politicians seem to think that we don't know what's best for us and our families. And that's just not true. We do know what's best for our families.
Got it? And again, how do you fight this sort of thing?
I think just time patients and storytelling is what I would kind of summarize it as. I think that while these are very personal stories for a lot of people, we have had a lot more people in the past few years willing to come forward and talk about their abortion stories. And I think that that kind of demystifies it for a lot of people and kind of fights back against that misinformation. And I think that's really helpful for the folks that are in a comfortable enough place that they feel willing to do so. But beyond that, it's just making sure that we re emphasize that this is an issue of personal autonomy. This is an issue of democracy of listening to voters. And if we don't have that, then I think we have a very shaky foundation for the state of Kansas. So I really think that that's something that we need to work on shoring up in the next few years.
Yeah, absolutely. So democracy is a, like a full bodied sport. It's a full participation sport. And we can, I think it's okay to take breaks and rest and take care of ourselves. But we also have to stay vigilant. And I think the way we can do that and sustain ourselves is to be in community and love each other by trying to change the world around us. And so again, I think it's about finding a political home and a place where you feel you can do that and make a difference in your community.
And what are we looking at in terms of the future of reproductive rights in Kansas? Do you have any predictions? And what are we gonna see, at the end of the legislative session?
Well, I think it needs to go beyond just this session, obviously, I hope that we're able to stop a lot of the harm of these bills, but then I would love to see in the next few years to have just more proactive legislation to be able to support folks. And I think that in general, when we have a stronger economy that works for everyone up and down the chain, I think that we're going to see more people feeling empowered to make those decisions. And I think that it's to that reproductive justice framework, and needs to also like Leslie said, be hitting on productive education, policy, and healthcare and everything like that. And so I think none of these issues are disconnected from the others. And we need to kind of focus on all of them together, even though that's definitely a bigger challenge. It's a challenge worth fighting.
Yeah, well, I can't predict the future. I do think that, you know, like I mentioned, when I woke up August 3, I felt like we were stronger than ever. And I still feel that in this session, especially seeing the community that has come out, especially to stop these anti abortion bills and stop the anti LGBTQ bills. I've seen really a groundswell of folks learning how to engage some some for the first time. And I believe that if that keeps happening, then we will win and get Kansas back to a place where all people are free to live the lives that are best for them.
Now on the 27th, I believe the Supreme Court will have back to back hearings on Hodes as a result of our Attorney General Kris Kobach, who's a little who's asking them to reconsider this abortion decision. What do you think about that? I mean, are you worried about this?
I think this is an example of, you know, after August 2, it wasn't that they went into a period of reflection about how Kansans had overwhelmingly shown that they support the right to abortion, but that we will see politicians continue to find. And I think that the attorney general is a perfect example of this continue to to find whatever angle they can to try to peel away what Kansans truly want. And I think that's just another example.
Yeah, I would say that I'm, I'm hopeful to see the results of this case. And I have faith that the Supreme Court did the right thing before and I hope that they'll do it again. But truly, only time will tell.
And then we just mentioned like some of the stuff going on, like the born alive bill that's happening on like National pieces as well. Why is why are we seeing these bills reflected like this?
I think it really gets back to this. You know, Kansas isn't the only place where politicians sort of create issues that are create issues that are really about political theater, and not about issues that really, really impact everyday people's lives. And so we see that across the country, because it riles up their base rails up really, what are a small minority of folks that have these really extreme opinions about abortion, a small minority of folks want to ban abortion outright. And so they they use this pop propaganda to add color to their, to their language. But it really is just propaganda. And it's really about their own elections.
Absolutely. I think for me, after August 2, we saw a lot of national attention on Kansas. And it was often time with a lot of surprise. And I think it was surprised not necessarily from the best place where Kansas has long been underestimated on the national scale. And while it was nice to get that little positive support and publicity from other states, I think really, this just does need to be something where we focus inwards. And while it's great to have that praise from elsewhere, we don't really need it. We've been like existing for many years without that national support. And so I want to kind of say that you can kind of keep your praise and we'll keep doing what we've always been doing in Kansas, and I'm not surprised that we've been doing great, awesome things here. And I hope that other people would, you know, realize that but short of that happening. I think that we also don't need other people's negativity coming into Kansas and if other states are going to do what they want Aren't, that's their prerogative. But I think here in Kansas, we need to be focusing on what our voters want, rather than what the national media tells us that folks in the heartland want.
Some of the rhetoric we've been seeing to you, which is like just among Kansas lawmakers is on this narrative of regret that like, you need to be carefully considering this, especially with the abortion reversal sort of thing. I mean, what do you think about it? They like, again, I've heard a lot of talk about abortion, regret, and then also save the baby sort of rhetoric. Have you heard?
Yeah, so for that, I think the the regret so what we know about abortion is that folks are as confident in their decision about abortion as they are about most things in their life. And most of the time, folks are confident in their decisions. And, and really, you know, this comes back to patients that are seeking abortion care should be able to make that decision for themselves, period. And so this message about regret, I find it incredibly patronizing and paternalistic. I find it misogynistic, that politicians think that someone like me doesn't have the tools and the wherewithal to be able to make that decision for myself. I think that's, that's unfair. And I think that's also just not true about patients seeking abortion. For a lot of folks, it's a it's a really complicated decision. And so and as far as the like, language around, protecting children and families, again, I would say, I would love to see their receipts and how they are protecting children and families in Kansas, because I can think of many examples where we could see that impact and our lives. And I do not see those politicians in Topeka doing those things.
Yeah. And to Leslie's previous point, I think that that language of regret, not only is that just not borne out in the data, that people regret their abortions, I also think that it kind of creates a slippery slope, where if we kind of see that argument on this one and say that, okay, fine, the government can do whatever they want to prevent me from having regrets, then that spills over particularly into the anti trans legislation, where they'll say that, that's why they're stopping folks from accessing puberty blockers or home hormones. And I think that that's just something where it can kind of really balloon into a situation that is, like less exciting, paternalistic, and I just do not want to see that happen in our state.
And how is this different from previous years? Like, are the bills you're seeing this year, different than other years?
Unfortunately, I think that some of these bills are bills that we've seen before, but I think what's different right now is just the energy more than anything. And that means both sides are fired up more than ever. So I think that there might be more of a focus. But I don't think that the intent or underlying beliefs behind those bills are really any different than what we've seen before.
Yeah, I agree. I mean, I think that, you know, the the reversal bill, for example, saw we saw in 2019, you will probably see it again, if it doesn't pass. And I think that this sort of like the, you know, the copy and paste from a lot of other states, they will do that in the future. So I think we can look to other states, to see what could potentially be coming both through the good and bad of the future. I think there's also examples and other states of proactive legislation have clearly mentioned that we hope to do in the future.
And we're probably going to wrap this up, is there anything else you guys would like to add anything that you really want to mention?
I think for me, it just comes down to we need to keep up the good work. And I'm proud of all the only advocates that are out there that are getting trained up on this issue. And I just hope that that energy continues into the future. Like I said before, it's just an issue of democracy, autonomy, and just empowering the individual. We need to build safe communities. And I think that if we want folks to stay in Kansas and grow their families in Kansas, we need to make sure that we have the permission structures and the safe environments for them to do so.
Yeah, and I would say, I just want to express gratitude to everyone in the state that is working on these things. I know it's hard and can be challenging when these politicians are playing football with our own lives and our own futures and the futures of our own families. And that can be really scary. So I want to just express gratitude and love to everyone who is doing this work and also and also say like we got your back like we're going to be here. We're going to figure it out together. And again, find a political home and find a community that's working on this and that's how we'll do it.
Awesome. Well, this was Chloe Chaffin and Lesley Bush, the Hugo for being here. Thanks