Breaking: Kansas “Mega Bill” Would Deny Non-Profit Status to Abortion Providers

Today may be “National Day of Appreciation for Abortion Providers,” but down in Kansas, they’ve decided to do anything but.

In fact, in a bill introduced yesterday in the Kansas state legislature, they’ve combined several familiar anti-choice gimmicks, including parental consent laws, fetal personhood measures, and more, to form what some are calling an anti abortion “mega-bill.”

The kicker? In addition to these more familiar anti-choice ploys, the bill makes an unprecedented attack on organizations that provide abortion services: by threatening their non-profit, or 501c3, status.

If this bill passes, any organization, such as a hospital, medical practice, or Planned Parenthood clinic, that has non profit status, will no longer be able to claim non profit status on their state taxes if they provide abortion services.

That’s right. The state of Kansas thinks it’s a good idea to make hospitals and clinics choose between providing a safe and potentially lifesaving abortion to a woman, even in an emergency situation, and keeping their non-profit status. Now that’s one choice this pro-choice gal is staunchly against.

The bill also deals with individuals’ tax codes, and legislates that any abortion-related expenses would not be counted as a deductible medical expense on Kansas state taxes.

As you can imagine, this bill could have a devastating impact, potentially making it impossible for Planned Parenthood to provide abortion services in the state and remain in business. But the real losers would be the women and community members of Kansas. Non-profits generally use their tax exempt status to provide more services and more care at a lower rate: instead of paying taxes they provide low cost care to folks. That would all be gone.

Local reproductive health lobbyists I spoke with said that there is no precedent for such a maneuver, and expressed disbelief and anger. They said they had never encountered such a bill, and warned that it has the potential to shut down organizations and establishments that provide lifesaving care on a daily basis.

Kansas Governor Sam Brownback famously said during his gubernatorial campaign that he would sign any piece of anti abortion legislation that made it to his desk. Is Governor Brownback ready to remove tax exempt status from Kansas hospitals?

If it seems like such a bill would have no chance of getting to Brownback’s desk, think again. Local activists say that the odds of the bill passing are unclear, but it’s certainly not an impossibility. The legislation came as the result of a Kansas legislative process called a “gut-n-go”, which happens often right at the end of the (fiscal) year. Anti-choicers take over a bill that has already passed the Senate and they “gut” it, or remove its contents,  filling it instead with anti-choice provisions. The House passes it quickly, since the Kansas state congress has 99 anti-choice members out of 120, and they send it back to the Senate, where it is no longer required to have hearings or discussion: just a vote. Sneaky, right? No wonder the resulting bill is so distasteful. It’s the result of legislative manipulation.

Local activists in Kansas need us to speak out against this offensive atrocity. They need our voice, they need a groundswell, and they need it now. Things have already gone too far in Kansas, but they need to know that the buck stops here. Or rather, the buck DOESN’T stop [going to abortion providers] here. The nation is watching and paying attention to Kansas- it’s been a key battleground on abortion rights for years. Dr. Tiller may be gone, but his legacy is not. We need to trust women in Kansas to make their own decisions about their bodies.

Click here to tell the legislature ( we will update this with more specifics as we get them) how you feel about their latest shenanigans. For those who live in Kansas or happen to be in the area, there will be a “I Stand with Planned Parenthood” rally happening in Topeka tomorrow afternoon. We will update with links as we get them, please put in comments if you have any.

Brooklyn, NY

Lori Adelman is a writer and advocate focusing on race, gender, and sexual and reproductive rights. In addition to her work at Feministing, Lori is an Associate Director at Planned Parenthood Global. Lori has previously worked at the United Nations Foundation, the International Women’s Health Coalition, and Human Rights Watch, and has written for a host of print and digital properties including Rookie Magazine, The Grio, and the New York Times Magazine. She regularly appears on radio and television, and has spoken at college campuses across the U.S. about topics like the politics of black hair, transnational movement building, and the undercover feminism of Nicki Minaj. In 2014, she was named to The Root 100 list of the nation's most influential African Americans, and to the Forbes Magazine list of the "30 Under 30" successful people in media.

Lori Adelman is an Executive Director of Feministing in charge of Partnerships.

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