Closest abortion option in question on Kansas ballot

Jul. 31—After Roe v. Wade was overturned last month and Missouri's trigger law went into effect, Northwest Missouri residents have turned to Kansas for abortion access. But that could change soon.

There are three facilities in Kansas City that offer abortions — the closest options for St. Joseph residents. Two of those are run by Planned Parenthood, and an official with the organization said they have seen an increase in care.

"There are only five providers across the entire state of Kansas," said Anamarie Rebori Simmons, the director of communications and marketing for Planned Parenthood Great Plains. "Prior to the Supreme Court's decision, that wasn't even enough really to provide the amount of care needed for Kansans, let alone others who might be traveling."

Missourians have had to travel for abortion procedures even before the Court's decision because of the state's strict laws — only one clinic in St. Louis provided abortions. But residents may have to travel even farther, depending on the results of Kansas' upcoming election.

On the Kansas ballot Aug. 2 is the Value Them Both amendment, which would end the right to abortion in Kansas. This doesn't mean that there would be a ban on abortions, but it opens the door for the Kansas legislature to restrict access.

"Is there a bill waiting in the wings the minute we pass this amendment? No, there is no such bill," said Kansas State Senator Beverly Gossage, R-Eudora. "We will come together, as we always have and look at abortion and talk about it. What do we think would be the best thing to do? But the thoughtful approach that Kansas has taken through their legislature is not going to change."

Democratic politicians, however, are nervous that the end of the constitutional right to abortion would be a direct path to a complete ban.

"What the legislature cannot do is totally ban it," said Kansas State Senator Cindy Holscher, D-Overland Park. "That's why this amendment is needed. Without it, that opens the door to allow banning to happen."

The amendment also would end government funding for abortions. But the Kansas GOP is focused on the section that would reinstate specific abortion clinic safety regulations, like parental notification, inspections and education.

"It's not what does this amendment do, which is really just safeguard the regulations we already have and put the power back into the hands of the people rather than the courts," Gossage said.

If the amendment passes and the legislature decides to ban or restrict abortions, the next closest clinic is outside of Omaha, Nebraska, or in Council Bluffs, Iowa — both states that are considering their own bans.

"The more and more states that either restrict or lose access just means that either patients won't have the ability or they are going to need the support of family, friends, organizations to get to where care is," Rebori Simmons said.

This would leave residents, like Samantha Goacher, with limited options.

"If it was my daughter, I'd find a way," she said. "But there's so many women out there that can't. If it comes down to your health or something like that, you have to do what you have to do."

Quinn Ritzdorf can be reached at