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curiousKC | What are Reproductive Rights?

Plus a Kansas City Resource Guide

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Above image credit: Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri, photographed on Monday, June 6, 2022, in St. Louis is the only abortion provider in Missouri. (Brian Heffernan | St. Louis Public Radio)

“Reproductive rights” has been a Google search phrase more in the past couple of months than in the search engine’s history. 

The surge in queries for the alliterative buzzword started in May, following the leaked U.S. Supreme Court document hinting that Roe v. Wade would be overturned. The phrase was used even more as the Supreme Court decision was finalized and states scrambled to react to their new power over abortion regulation.


Surge in Searches


It led Flatland to ask: What does the phrase actually encompass and what does the Supreme Court’s decision mean in the Kansas City region? 

The Institute for Women’s Policy Research defines reproductive rights as the ability “to decide whether and when to have children.” The availability of abortion and contraception are vital to maintaining reproductive rights. 

In the early 1990s, a group of Black women met and discussed the lack of representation in the women’s rights movement. The primarily white, middle-class-led movement didn’t reflect the needs of women of color, trans folks and low-income women. According to Sister Song, which is an advocate for marginalized communities, this was the birth of the reproductive justice movement. 

At the time of its formation, abortion was legal, but that didn’t mean it was accessible to everyone. Reproductive justice combines reproductive rights with social justice to say it’s not enough to have the choice of carrying (or not) a child. Reproductive health care should be accessible to all. 

Some elements of reproductive justice: 

  • Legal abortions that don’t require long, or out-of-state travel to acquire.
  • Access to affordable contraception.
  • Access to pregnancy care and birthing centers. 
  • Insurance coverage of reproductive health.
  • Affordable child care and other resources.

Kansas City health advocates and birthing people continue to fight for reproductive justice.

At an American Public Square event last week discussing the “Value Them Both” amendment vote in Kansas, panelist Sandra Thornhill, a doula and founder of Sacred Organized Spaces, spoke about the current state of reproductive justice in Kansas City.

“We are already 50 years behind our goal of reproductive justice,” Thornhill said, speaking as a Black “birthing warrior” herself and representing the folks she works with. “Now our nation as a collective has taken 50 steps back from reproductive rights by repealing Roe v. Wade.” 

A recent data article in the New York Times analyzed the well-being of mothers and children in each state based on rates of uninsured women, maternal and infant mortality and child poverty. According to the Times, Missouri (40) and Kansas (36) ranked among the worst in the nation in most categories in the nationwide data. 

Despite shortcomings in terms of achieving reproductive justice, there are several resources throughout the city doing what they can to help.

Chosen Family Mutual Aid KC and Samuel U. Rodgers Health Center put together a list of free and low cost reproductive and sexual health resources. Chosen Family Mutual Aid leader Sawyer Jurgensmeier collaborated with Dr. Robbie Harriford, the chief medical officer at Samuel Rodgers. They said access to sexual health services has been difficult for Kansas and Missouri residents, especially for those with limited financial resources. 

Find the Contraceptive KC list here.

How You Can Support Reproductive Rights and Reproductive Justice in Kansas City

On Tuesday, Kansans will vote on whether to uphold the constitutional right to abortion in Kansas or to amend the constitution. 

Abortion On the Ballot

Ballot text: The Value Them Both Amendment would affirm there is no Kansas constitutional right to abortion or to require the government funding of abortion, and would reserve to the people of Kansas, through their elected state legislators, the right to pass laws to regulate abortion, including, but not limited to, in circumstances of pregnancy resulting from rape or incest, or when necessary to save the life of the mother.

A vote for the Value Them Both Amendment would affirm there is no Kansas constitutional right to abortion or to require the government funding of abortion, and would reserve to the people of Kansas, through their elected state legislators, the right to pass laws to regulate abortion.

A vote against the Value Them Both Amendment would make no changes to the constitution of the state of Kansas, and could restrict the people, through their elected state legislators, from regulating abortion by leaving in place the recently recognized right to abortion.

Vicky Diaz-Camacho covers community affairs for Kansas City PBS. Cami Koons covers rural affairs for Kansas City PBS in cooperation with Report for America. The work of our Report for America corps members is made possible, in part, through the generous support of the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation.

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