A Focus on Kansas Political Agenda.


Yadiel Soto-Rocha, Staff

Recently in the Kansas Legislature, lawmakers are choosing to push a bill that would criminalize gender reassignment surgery and hormone therapy. The Kansas GOP, alongside “trying to create fairness in women’s sports,” is also working towards stricter abortion rules. Kansas Republicans have called this a fight against the rise of a “sexualized woke agenda,” but what is the “Woke Agenda” to begin with?


Senate President Ty Masterson, a Republican from Wichita, thinks he was talking about the dangers of “woke ideology” as he says Democrats want unchecked abortions, even going as far as allowing abortions after birth. Yes, you heard that right, abortions after birth. I don’t know what Masterson means by that, but if people somehow get away with murdering their child after it’s been born, then I believe that would make headlines. Especially in the case of Kansas, where abortions in the state are illegal after 22 weeks of gestation.


It’s hard to understand the anti-choice position as it’s inherently anti-women and against religious freedom. In Islam, there is no one Islamic interpretation of the ethics of abortion, and in Judaism, abortion is permitted – even required if the pregnant person’s life is at stake. This fundamentalist view of abortion spawns out of the Christian-conservative base. It wasn’t until the 1970’s that Republicans offered support for working-class anti-abortion views in exchange for working-class support for pro-business positions, but this view I disagree with this. The fight over reproductive labor comes from employers and the rich not wanting to contribute anything toward the essential work of having and raising kids. Attack on abortion rights is a broad assault on working-class living and working conditions, and it is aimed at extracting reproductive labor without compensation. The push to ban abortion comes from the top, not the grassroots movement of believing society will somehow be better off if we ban abortions.


As for the transgender legislation, Senator Mike Thompson, a Republican in Shawnee, and Mark Steffen, a Republican in Hutchinson, are both trying to criminalize hormone replacement therapy and gender reassignment surgery for transgender youths. The bill, SB12, would make it illegal for physicians to prescribe hormone replacement therapy or perform gender-reassignment surgeries for anyone under 21, with a few exceptions. This bill is clearly attacking Transgender youth, but for what purpose? Thomson mentions how he wrote the legislation due to health concerns for Kansas youth, who are somehow influenced into transitioning decisions. I’m a psychology student, and Thompson’s decisions go against the health concerns for Kansas youth who identify as Trans. Don’t just take it from me, though. The American Medical Association, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, and the American Academy of Pediatrics all have opposed SB12, saying banning gender-affirming care for transgender minors is damaging and not rooted in science. As for the “influenced” part of the discussion, I’ll discuss it later. For now, it’s imperative to understand that gender-reassignment surgeries for younger individuals are only considered for the procedure if the patient, their legal guardians, and their mental health professional are all in agreement that top surgery is appropriate. These surgeries are typically only available to those 18 and older in the United States.


Much like abortions, trans-existence relies on people in positions of power to hold a belief that isn’t grounded in anything and does nothing to satisfy the current situation that many Kansas workers face. For example, the Garden City area alone ranks among the state’s lowest for quality of life and health outcomes. Adults in Finney County are about twice as likely to lack a primary care doctor and 50% more likely to be in poor health than the state average. The State of Kansas remains one of 12 that has not yet adopted Medicaid expansion though the governor is advocating for it. Access to healthcare is a challenge, particularly for non-U.S. Citizens, as 37% of non-citizens lack health insurance, and a regional provider shortage affects all residents. 24% report being fair or poor health. The county also has high sexually transmitted disease rates and teen-birth rates. In 2000, half the students in Garden City’s public system received free or reduced lunch because of their families’ low income. Today that numbers up to two-thirds.


According to Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, “today, Hispanic residents make up nearly half of the population and experience significant economic, social, and health disparities. While several local initiatives aim to link these residents to services, including health care, English classes, and healthy foods, more work is needed to overcome the significant barriers facing immigrants, especially poverty and a lack of health insurance.”


This all ties back to the apparent “woke agenda” that republicans love. In an opinion piece by Jamelle Bouie in the New York Times, he writes of Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida and his national political image, as he is openly hostile toward LGBT Floridians and anything deemed woke (sounds familiar). Bouie writes, “By leaning into high-profile battles as a culture warrior par excellence for the most reactionary segment of the American public DeSantis has made himself the hero of conservative elites and the bête noire of liberals and Democrats without so much as mentioning his radical and unpopular views on social insurance and the welfare state.” Kansas republicans, along with all republicans, are unoriginal. Constantly being an opponent of so-called entitlements and other forms of federal aid. As reported by the Kansas Reflector, the Kansas GOP agenda is to authorize the current attorney general to regulate government assistance and the welfare program. Many Republicans can openly admit to opposing Medicaid expansion, but when defining the “woke ideology,” there isn’t a clear consensus on what it means. My favorite response was from House Majority Leader Dan Hawkins, a Republican from Wichita, and how he just says, “Go and Google it.” It’s a buzzword and a word that solidifies the Republican base because they have no other piece of legislation that can pull Kansas Workers out of the growing inflation or lack of health insurance.


There is a clear solution to this, Democrats and liberals have to spend less time on cultural conflict and more time focusing on what’s important to Kansas voters. According to Kansas Speaks Fall 2022 study, a statewide public opinion survey done by Fort Hays State University can be seen here. Over 50% of the 435 participants found Medicaid expansion in Kansas to be extremely important or highly important when deciding their vote to be represented in the Kansas Legislature, and 38.4% found it slightly important. In comparison, 9.3% didn’t find it important at all. Even when asked, 43.5% strongly supported the expansion of Medicaid in Kansas, while 28.4% somewhat agreed. These are impressive numbers and go to show that the Kansas population cares more about expanding systems that do more good for the individual than focusing on issues that have nothing to do with their current condition.