By Kathy Ostrowski, Kansans for Life Legislative Director
For decades, we have heard tearful testimony from post-abortive women who were misinformed about the humanity of their unborn child by the abortionist and staff. Far too many mothers have looked at sonograms of their current “wanted” pregnancy only to realize in private horror that the abortion they had years before, did not merely remove a “blob of tissue,” but destroyed a recognizably human, unborn child.
In the pursuit of selling an abortion, clinics cannot be trusted to promote medical accuracy. Unlike other acts of consumer deception, for which lawsuits would be entertained, abortion clinics fear no legal repercussions.
Instead, the one significant bar to total manipulation of abortion information came from the U.S. Supreme Court in its 1992 Casey decision. Casey allows the states to provide “objective, nonjudgmental, scientifically accurate” information relevant to making an informed abortion decision.
Kansas implemented that right in 1997 by creating a “Woman’s Right to Know” (WRTK) division of the state health department (KDHE), to maintain a 24-hour phone hotline and publish official informational booklets. Every legal abortion in Kansas requires the woman (whether a Kansan or non-resident) to sign a paper that she “accessed” this information prior to abortion.
In 2009, the Kansas legislature was able to enact updated pro-life provisions for informed consent that were not vetoed –as had been the pattern under then-Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius. The main provisions:
1) required clinics using ultrasound technology to honor the woman’s request to see the child’s ultrasound and receive a hard copy, 30 minutes prior to abortion; and 2) instructed the KDHE to update all WRTK printed materials to a website.
More importantly, however, was the fact that the WRTK website was properly implemented in 2011, under pro-life Gov. Sam Brownback. Notably, the WRTK website was the first in the nation to include an independently-produced, interactive 4-D ultrasound educational tool about prenatal development.
There has been significant traffic to the WRTK website, but the quintessential point is to provide “one-click” access to women at the crucial moments they are considering abortion.
When (as so often is the case) women experience a lack of support for maintaining their pregnancy–or downright coercion to abort–they need every tool they can get. The WRTK website is a source of objective facts about pregnancy and a list of assistance centers.
It is designed to enlighten and empower women, especially those being pressured by partners, friends or family members. Such information is best contemplated away from the abortion business, and a privately-accessible, trustworthy web source is ideal.
It is noteworthy that the websites of all four Kansas abortion clinics did include this WRTK link voluntarily from 2011-2013–even the (recently-closed) Aid for Women clinic whose website commentary roundly bashed the WRTK information. No doubt the clinics found that burying this link somewhere on their web pages would legally allow them to not physically hand out the WRTK booklets to their clients.
With the link thus so unevenly treated, and even scorned, the Kansas legislature in 2013 mandated that every abortion clinic in the state feature a live link to the WRTK site on their homepage, with a short descriptive tagline. The weblink tagline (tweaked in 2014) reads:
“The Kansas Department of Health and Environment maintains a website containing information about the development of the unborn child, as well as video of sonogram images of the unborn child at various stages of development, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment`s website can be reached by clicking here.
As you would expect, two Kansas City suburban abortion clinics sued the weblink mandate as an infringement of the First Amendment. The injunction governing the weblink — obtained in state court by the Center for Women’s Health, in June 2013– was dissolved this summer.
Notice of this action was sent to federal court, which has not yet acted upon a request by Planned Parenthood of Kansas & Mid Missouri for a similar injunction. Attorneys for the state of Kansas continue to aggressively defend the WRTK services.