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The end of Roe hasn't drawn more women to Kansas for abortions — it was already a destination

A team of doctors, nurses and professionals make preparations for the day's patients in Wichita, organizing medical supplies on carts and going over charts in front of the surgical board.
Abigail Censky
Kansas News Service
The staff at Trust Women clinic in Wichita prepare for a day's patients last year. The clinic has seen a steady influx of patients from Texas and Oklahoma.

Kansas saw a flood of out-of-state patients seeking abortion care before the recent overturning of Roe v. Wade. Although more states enacted their own restrictions, a Kansas clinic does not expect to see another influx of women because the trek will be too far for them.

LAWRENCE, Kansas — Even as an abortion refuge in a region where a growing number of states impose ever-tightening restrictions, and outright bans, on the procedure, another wave of women coming to Kansas for treatment has yet to materialize.

Operators of clinics offering abortion in Kansas say Midwestern and Southern states where the procedure is no longer available are too far away to make the trip to Kansas. The state was already an abortion destination for large numbers of women from Missouri, Oklahoma and Texas before the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last month.

In the past year, Kansas abortion clinics saw a flood of patients from Texas and Oklahoma because those states enacted significant bans on abortion. That made Kansas, where anti-abortion Republicans control the Legislature, an unlikely refuge for abortion care. A trigger law in Missouri kicked in after the high court decision, effectively banning abortions in that state.

In recent years, the majority of abortions in Kansas were performed on women who do not live in the state.

With more states restricting access to abortion, those Kansas clinics were braced to see more women searching for services in Kansas.

But Zack Gingrich-Gaylord said the Trust Women clinic in Wichita hasn’t yet seen a rise in women from out of state since the high court’s ruling.

“A lot of people will not be able to leave their states because it is now simply too far,” he said.

In Kansas, abortion remains legal because it is protected by a 2019 Kansas Supreme Court ruling that found the state’s constitution protects access to abortion.

The state currently has four clinics located in the metro areas of Wichita and Kansas City. Gingrich-Gaylord said the state’s abortion care was already reaching capacity even before the federal ruling.

With Missouri joining the states restricting access, the available capacity in the Midwest was further reduced. But the amount of women who need abortion care has not.

“This really just enforces why people deserve local access to abortion care in their own communities,” Gingrich-Gaylord said. “People in Kansas deserve more meaningful access than they have right now.”

Kansans will soon vote on an amendment to the state constitution that would say that it does not provide the right to abortion.

Supporters of the amendment say the change would put decision making on abortion restrictions back in the hands of the state’s lawmakers. Critics say it would open the door for the state to pass more restrictive laws, up to a total ban on abortion, like other Republican-dominated states.

“That means we really have to defeat that amendment just to keep the local access we have here,” Gingrich-Gaylord said.

The vote is Aug. 2 during the state’s primary election. All registered voters in Kansas will be able to cast a ballot on the issue, regardless of their political affiliation.

Dylan Lysen reports on politics for the Kansas News Service. You can follow him on Twitter @DylanLysen or email him at dlysen (at) kcur (dot) org.

The Kansas News Service is a collaboration of KCUR, Kansas Public Radio, KMUW and High Plains Public Radio focused on health, the social determinants of health and their connection to public policy. 

Kansas News Service stories and photos may be republished by news media at no cost with proper attribution and a link to ksnewsservice.org.

As the Kansas social services and criminal justice reporter, I want to inform our audience about how the state government wants to help its residents and keep their communities safe. Sometimes that means I follow developments in the Legislature and explain how lawmakers alter laws and services of the state government. Other times, it means questioning the effectiveness of state programs and law enforcement methods. And most importantly, it includes making sure the voices of everyday Kansans are heard. You can reach me at dlysen@kcur.org, 816-235-8027 or on Threads, @DylanLysen.
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