Capitol Update: Rep. Jarrod Ousley says Kansas’s Free State roots include ‘right to control one’s body’

Rep. Jarrod Ousley, Democrat from Merriam. File photo.

Each week during the 2022 Kansas legislative session, we will provide Shawnee Mission area legislators the opportunity to share their thoughts about what’s happening in the state capitol.

Below is this week’s submission from Democratic Rep. Jarrod Ousley Woodard of Kansas House District 24, which covers Merriam and parts of Mission and Overland Park. 

Republican Rep. Owen Donohoe and Democratic Rep. Dan Osman were also given the chance to submit columns this week. 

The views expressed in each Capitol Update are solely those of the lawmaker and are not reflective of the Post’s position on any matter discussed. 

With the end of the legislative session here, and the August 2, 2022, special election just around the corner, my wife and I have had multiple discussions on what is at stake for the women of Kansas, and for Kansas itself.

John Brown was perhaps one of most notorious founding fathers. But his friendships with leaders in the abolitionist movement, including Frederick Douglass, reveal him as a deeply moral and brilliant strategist. Douglass compared John Brown to Patrick Henry, who gave the famous, “Give me liberty or give me death speech” but distinguished him as such: “Henry loved liberty for the rich and the great; Brown loved liberty for the poor and the weak.”

Many of us know the story of our Free State roots and the battle for the soul of Kansas. The city of Lawrence was sacked and burned during Quantrill’s raid and 190 Free Staters killed. After this tragedy and dueling constitutions, Kansas finally entered the Union as a Free State.

Our constitution was written by abolitionists and Clarina Nichols, a suffragist and Free Stater. They placed the bill of rights at the beginning of the document, indicating that the rights of individual Kansans superseded the authority of the State and that the State must govern to that aim.

Our Kansas Constitution as passed included three founding principles:

  1. Kansas would be a free state, with each person having ownership over themselves;
  2. rights for women, as Clarina was successful in gaining property rights for women;
  3. and a constitutional right to an education provided by the State.

Our founders fought and died so that Kansans would be free, so every Kansan would own themselves, and they would be educated.

The measure on the ballot on August 2 strips the ability to control one’s own body from half of our citizens, giving that power to the Kansas Legislature. This is a complete reversal of our founding principles.

If the constitutional amendment is not defeated, a House Bill has already been pre-filed, HB 2746, providing that life begins at the time of fertilization, defining “living human child from the moment of fertilization.”

It provides for only three extraordinarily narrow exceptions for a legal abortion: to remove a dead fetus, to save the life of an unborn child (in the event of multiples) and in the instance of an ectopic pregnancy that “seriously” threatens the life of the mother.

Those are the only exceptions.

There are no exceptions for other serious threats to the mother, such as pre-eclampsia, placental abruption, sepsis, an underdeveloped young mother (such as child whose body is not yet developed enough to safely deliver) or other adverse complications such as liver or heart conditions of the mother, cancer to the mother, diabetes risk factors, etc.

And there are no exceptions for rape.

Should this bill become law, your daughters, sisters, friends and wives could be raped and forced to carry to term the rapist’s baby, and forced to deal with the threat of harassment from their abuser for the life of their child. Every year, more than a thousand Kansas women and children are raped. The additional trauma and pain this amendment would cause them is unimaginable.

“The moment of conception” bars access to morning after pills, to in-vitro fertilization and would create the suspicion of a potential crime for each miscarriage a woman experiences.

Violations of this bill are felonies. For the woman, the provider and anyone who perhaps conspired to the commission of the “underlying crime.”

If your daughter is raped, and you attempt to give her assistance, you, your daughter and her medical provider will all be felons.

If your daughter has a medical condition that puts her health at grave risk or that could kill her, there is no exception in the law. And once again, you, your daughter and her medical provider will all be felons if you act to save her life.

On August 2, Vote “No” to keep the legislature out of your loved one’s medical care, and to safeguard the original intention of our constitution, that every Kansan should control their own body.

Kansans deserve the right to make these private, medical decisions for themselves – free from government interference. Forever the Free State.

As always, it is my privilege to serve my constituents in House District 24. I can be reached at jarrod.ousley@house.ks.gov at 785-296-7366 and on Facebook here.