Rachel Mipro, Kansas Reflector
Kansas Legislature passes human smuggling law, junk science ‘abortion reversal’ bill
Sen. Beverly Gossage said women needed to know about "abortion reversal," a concept doctors have called unscientific and dangerous. (Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)
By Rachel Mipro, Kansas Reflector
TOPEKA — Under new law, Uber drivers for undocumented people could potentially be guilty of human smuggling, one of many concerns raised about a broad bill enacted by the Legislature.
Lawmakers in the House and Senate overrode Gov. Laura Kelly’s veto of House Bill 2350 Thursday, despite objections from Latino and Black Democrats who fear the legislation could punish anyone who helps an immigrant. The bill is one of several vetoed bills successfully passed into law by the Legislature.
Supporters of the bill say it will crack down on human smuggling, but several lawmakers have said the law’s wording is too ambiguous. It defines human smuggling as intentionally transporting, harboring or concealing someone known to be in the U.S. illegally while benefiting from the transaction and knowing the individual is likely to be exploited for financial gain.
In these cases, Kansas courts would have to decide whether the person being smuggled is in the country illegally, a decision usually left to federal immigration courts and one that the Kansas justice system may not be equipped to handle.
In her veto explanation, Kelly said paramedics transporting people to the emergency room and people giving coworkers a ride could potentially be considered human smugglers if they had knowledge of the person’s undocumented status.
The motion to overrule Kelly’s veto passed the House 85-39 and the Senate 30-9.
Sen. Kellie Warren, a Leawood Republican, said Kelly’s concerns were misplaced and these examples wouldn’t be penalized under the bill because of the “exploitation” part of the clause.
“None of those are criminal activities under the bill, neither is if you’re an Uber driver, driving someone to work. That is not defined as human smuggling under the bill,” Warren said, though she didn’t mention any safeguards to prevent such interpretation of the law.
Sen. Mary Ware, a Wichita Democrat, said the measure would be intrusive for many Kansans, and there were already legal provisions against exploitation.
“The fact remains that there are many, many Kansans who feel as though this would be a big problem in their lives. And besides those specifics, the fact is, this policy is already in Kansas law,” Ware said.
Lawmakers also voted to strip federally funded food assistance from people 50 to 59 years of age who aren’t working at least 30 hours a week or taking part in employment training.
The Kansas House gathered the two-thirds majority Wednesday to overrule Kelly’s veto, and the Senate voted 28-12 for the measure Thursday.
The bill denies Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits from able-bodied adults in the specified age range who don’t have dependents, aren’t meeting the 30-hour a week requirement and aren’t participating in a work training program.
Another section of the legislation requires parents to cooperate with state child support investigations as a condition of qualifying for a child care subsidy through the Kansas Department for Children and Families.
Senate President Ty Masterson, R-Andover, said taking away food assistance would incentivize people to return to work.
“It’s like everything has to be built around a government program and a handout,” Masterson said. “This doesn’t forcefully take anybody off, it gives them all the opportunity to work and participate.”
The legislation is similar to the Legislature’s 2022 move to restrict SNAP assistance to able-bodied men and women ages 18-49.
Sen. David Haley, a Kansas City Democrat, said denying hungry people food was hard-hearted.
“I just can’t believe the hypocrisy or the mean-spiritedness when it comes to one of the greatest agricultural states in this country saying no to providing the daily bread for all of our populations,” Haley said. “And I’m sorry to see this legislation not be thwarted.”
Lawmakers passed a scientifically unsound “abortion reversal” bill, voting 84-40 in the House and 29-11 in the Senate to overrule Kelly’s veto. The bill requires doctors and medication abortion providers to tell their patients that it is possible to reverse an abortion after taking mifepristone.
This claim is based on questionable research, and studies have shown the reversal attempt has significant health risks for women, including risks of hemorrhaging.
Republicans who support the legislation point to a debunked study from California physician George Delgado to support the claim that the pregnancy could be preserved if progesterone is taken within a certain time period after the abortion pill.
Sen. Beverly Gossage, a Eudora Republican, said the bill could save babies from abortion, despite the studies and warnings from respected medical institutions. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists opposes the process, calling it scientifically unsound, unproven and unethical.
“This is just giving women knowledge,” Gossage said. “This is allowing women to know what their options are.”
Under the bill, physicians who refuse to talk to their patients about “abortion reversal” on more than one occasion could face up to a year of jail time. Health care facilities that prescribe or administer mifepristone would be fined $10,000 if they refuse to put up the mandatory notice.
Sen. Pat Pettey, a Kansas City Democrat, said the “abortion reversal” idea wasn’t rooted in science.
“This is just another attempt by politicians — that’s us — to insert ourselves between the patient and the provider,” Pettey said. “That hurt woman who is making a very personal decision.”
Maternity center funding
Legislature Republicans overrode Kelly’s veto of a budget provision that allocates $2 million to pregnancy resource centers across the state.
The provision, passed 29-11 in the Senate and 86-38 in the House, will fund resources such as pregnancy support assistance, maternity homes and adoption assistance, with the goal of having pregnant women who are considering abortion think of other options.
In other states where similar programs have been implemented, a lack of nonprofit regulation has led to financial abuse. Critics of the provision have also pointed out that Kansas already has a state grant program designed to help low-income women with pregnancies.
The Legislature took an unorthodox approach of funneling the money through the state treasurer’s office, with Treasurer Steven Johnson responsible for awarding a contract to a nonprofit or company to administer the initiative.
This article was used by permission from the Kansas Reflector. The Kansas Reflector is a non-profit online news organization serving Kansas. For more information on the organization, go to its website at www.kansasreflector.com.