Preface: On Tuesday, January 21, 2020 Pam Richardson of Kansas GRR! shared her story during the public hearing before the House Federal and State Affairs Committee and Senate Judiciary Committee Opposing HCR 5019 (HCR 5019 reads “to amend the bill of rights of the constitution of the state of Kansas by adding a new section thereto stating that there is no constitutional right to abortion, and reserving to the people the ability to regulate abortion through the elected members of the legislature of the state of Kansas”).
Kansas politicians are trying to take us back in time—to a time when women were considered second-class citizens, stripped of the dignity to legally make our own decisions about our bodies. If passed, House Concurrent Resolution 5019 and Senate Concurrent Resolution 1613 will essentially take away a woman’s right to make personal reproductive health care decisions for herself, a basic human right.
I can share from personal experience how important it is to have the right to make our own reproductive health choices. In 1972, as a freshman at Baker University in Baldwin, KS, I became pregnant. My fiancé, whom I’d dated through high school, left for the Marine Corps. I was a penniless college student, unable to turn to my parents for help. I wanted an abortion. Fortunately, friends gave me the money I needed for an airplane ticket to Washington, D.C. (one of only two places where abortion was legal then), a hotel room, and the procedure itself.
I spent twenty-four hours in D.C. by myself. Until that day, I had never had a gynecological exam, had never seen a speculum. I didn’t know what an abortion actually entailed. Sex education and birth control weren’t taught in my school, church, or home. After the procedure, I got back on a flight to Kansas with birth control pills and a postcard that had the provider’s toll-free number and a dime taped to it, in case I, like 3 in 100 women back then, got a post-operative infection.
Two days later, I woke up with a fever. After calling the number from a payphone in my dorm, I got a prescription for antibiotics. I didn’t have the money to pay for them, but I borrowed the sum from a friend of my roommate.
When my fiancé returned from three years overseas, he had changed. He became violent towards me, and we did not get married. Once I had the knowledge of birth control and access to it, I took great care to prevent pregnancy. When I was 25, I had a tubal ligation. I’ve been married for 37 years to a great guy and raised his stepdaughter as my own. I never regretted my abortion. This was my decision to make and it was the right one for me.
My story isn’t unusual. One in four women will have an abortion at some point in their lives. You likely know someone who’s had one – she could be your mother, sister, daughter, friend. Each of these women deserves the dignity and respect to make her own decisions about her body. HCR 5019 and SCR 5019 would strip us of this basic human right.