Kansas has now spent more than $1 million defending its abortion restrictions

Runaway spending on legal challenges comes at a time when education and prenatal healthcare face dire cuts

Published January 24, 2014 9:16PM (EST)

A raft of recent abortion restrictions have cost taxpayers in Kansas more than $1 million over the last three years. The state has paid a private law firm "slightly more than $1 million" since 2011, according to records obtained by the Associated Press.

Kansas has some of the most sweeping abortion restrictions on the books, including mandated state-directed counseling designed to discourage women from going forward with the procedure and a ban on public and private insurance coverage for the procedure, and lawmakers -- with the support of Republican Gov. Sam Brownback -- are poised to introduce more in the coming year.

Leaving regular people on the hook for politicians' anti-choice agenda is particularly unconscionable at a time when funding for education, prenatal healthcare, and other social services have been drastically cut in recent years.

Kansas' spending on education is down 16.5 percent since 2008, according to a recent study from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. That translates to $950 less per child in elementary and secondary school. Brownback has proposed an additional cuts in the coming year.

An organization aimed at reducing infant mortality in the state (Kansas ranks 40th in the country for infant mortality, and has the highest mortality rate among black infants in the nation) saw its budget reduced by more than 30 percent as a result of funding cuts, forcing the Sudden Infant Death Syndrome Network of Kansas to seek private funding in order to continue its work. The organization's previous operating budget of $190,000 was cut by $75,000 in 2011; a sum that could have been made up with a mere 7.5 percent of the $1 million the state wasted on defending abortion restrictions. Public health advocates have predicted that the state's refusal to accept the Medicaid expansion will also hurt women and children, as fewer low-income mothers will have the means to obtain care for their newborns.

Despite the consequences of out of control spending to defend invasive and punitive abortion restrictions, "fiscally conservative" lawmakers in the state show no signs of backing off or slowing down. It is estimated that Kansas will spend an additional $500,000 to defend these measures over the next two years, a tab that taxpayers will be forced to pick up for their elected officials.


By Katie McDonough

Katie McDonough is Salon's politics writer, focusing on gender, sexuality and reproductive justice. Follow her on Twitter @kmcdonovgh or email her at kmcdonough@salon.com.

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