Joco spotlight

The Bubble | Topeka’s version of the Truth

Updated: 2013-04-09T23:17:36Z

By SARAH SMITH NESSEL

Special to The Star

If only I were the Kansas Legislature.

Life would be so much easier if I could make up my very own facts and require everybody else to play along.

Sadly, I could never be the Kansas Legislature, because my capacity for cognitive dissonance is limited. I could never claim to be in favor of small government and then pass bills that attack a legal medical procedure from all angles, require doctors to lie to patients and mandate that a university spend money it doesn’t have to establish a research program it doesn’t want, simply to suit my political agenda.

The wingnut faction of the Kansas Legislature (also known as the majority) did all that last week, in the form of legislation that lays out, in great detail, dozens of reasons I could never be the Kansas Legislature.

I couldn’t promote the lie that abortion is riskier to women than childbirth. I couldn’t force doctors to tell pregnant women about abortion’s (nonexistent) link to breast cancer, but at the same time refuse to legislate disclosure of the (very real) risks of pregnancy and delivery.

I couldn’t prohibit Planned Parenthood from providing sex education information to public school students — at least, not if I honestly wanted to reduce the rate of pregnancies and abortions among teenagers.

I couldn’t tell the University of Kansas, whose funding I am considering cutting, to somehow find $1.1 million to establish a center for adult stem-cell research, plus $750,000 each year to run it. And then pretend that my enthusiasm for telling universities what types of research they will do is purely in the interest of science.

The Kansas Legislature has no problem passing bills that do all that and more, and and it’s safe to assume Gov. Sam Brownback will sign them into law.

It’s not hard to guess where this trend is leading. Once you’ve made up your own facts and enacted a law requiring professionals to convey those “facts” to a vulnerable audience, you aren’t going to stop at doctors and pregnant women. Not if you’re the Kansas Legislature. You’re going to move on to teachers and science classes, because frankly, you’re not all that crazy about this evolution and global warming talk, and you’d like to see schools “teach the controversy.” Even if that “controversy” is pure fiction.

No need to bother with overwhelming evidence, broad scientific consensus or basic critical thinking. Because if children learn how those work, they might eventually realize truths that you’d prefer they not know. Like the fact that abortion does not cause breast cancer.

Of all the reasons I could never be the Kansas Legislature, the biggest one is this: I could never be proud of suppressing truth and mandating lies. That’s why I don’t oppose the elements of the legislation requiring that women seeking abortions be given detailed information about fetal development. As long as that information is accurate, it needs to be part of the conversation between a woman and her doctor.

That conversation should also include a discussion of the medical risks involved in every path the woman might take at that point. Because the unpleasant truth is that there’s no completely safe way out of a pregnancy once you’re in it.

Truth, regardless of where you stand on any issue, should always be heard. Sadly, these days few in Topeka ever listen.

Freelancer Sarah Smith Nessel writes The Bubble every week.

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