From: Dr. Joy Koesten Leawood, Kansas
To: Special Committee of Federal and State Affairs Tuesday, January 21, 2020 - Room 346-S
Topic: Oral and Written Testimony in Opposition to HCR5019 & SCR1613
Honorable committee members. As many of you know, I am a former member of the Kansas House of Representatives and I thank you for this opportunity to speak before you. But today I come to you as a Jewish citizen who lives in House District 28 and Senate District 11.
I also come to you today as someone who values human life. In fact, I’ve never met anyone who doesn’t value human life, but I do know women who have had to terminate a pregnancy.
Last year, the Kansas Supreme Court ruled that the Kansas Constitution protects a woman’s right to a safe and legal abortion. These rights include the right to make decisions about her body, including the decision as to whether she will continue her pregnancy and that the State may only infringe upon her rights unless the State has a compelling interest and has narrowly tailored its actions to that interest.
This bill would render that Supreme Court’s decision moot and strip the rights of self-determination and autonomy to half of our population.
There is no other life event that will alter the trajectory of a woman’s life as does bearing a child. It is profound. Pregnancy disrupts a woman’s physical being for nine months, it disrupts her ability to keep a job and earn a living, it disrupts her family system, and it disrupts her life’s ambition. These are all acceptable outcomes if the woman is ready and willing to set aside all else and get pregnant. Millions of us do it over our lifetimes and it is a gift!
But I also know that women face situations that will cause them to seek a safe and legal abortion. In fact, one in four of us will do so over our lifetime. And, the majority of women who seek an abortion already have children and understand all too well the consequences of their gut-wrenching decision to terminate their pregnancy.
Patrick Carolan and Brian McLaren argued in their article last week in the National Catholic Reporter, “the fact is that life and choice are not mutually exclusive, and in a democracy, we can hold our own moral convictions about life and choice, rooted in our religious traditions, without feeling that others should be forced to live by them.”
Women don’t live their lives in the false dichotomy of pro-life or pro-choice. They live their lives in the challenging grey area, where answers aren’t always so easy. Their decision to seek a safe and legal abortion should be made in consultation with their doctor, their family, and their faith leader. Not the government.
For so many years, our focus in Kansas has been to restrict access to safe and legal abortion services and I understand how that came to be. We now have one of the most restrictive states in the entire county when it comes to safe, legal abortion services. But we have done very little to expand services for family planning, prenatal and maternal care.
In fact, over the past 7 years the Kansas legislature has passed no fewer than 11 bills that restrict access to safe and legal abortion services. But ONLY three bills have been passed to ensure women have access to coordinated, comprehensive family planning and maternal care across our state. In 2014, publicly funded centers in Kansas only met 17% of the need for publicly funded family planning and maternal care services.
Consequently, the policy decisions of this deliberative body have led to some miserable outcomes for women and children in Kansas today:
If the members of this committee truly want to support pro-life policies and reduce the number of abortions, please.... Focus on policies that will help women prevent unwanted pregnancies as well as policies that ensure that a woman and her fertilized egg will have only the best of care from conception to old age.
But above all else, I urge you to vote against this bill to ensure that all Kansans are afforded our Constitutional right to self-determination and autonomy.
Joy Koesten, PhD
Kansas Speaks Fall 2019 Statewide Public Opinion Survey Prepared For The Citizens of Kansas By The Docking Institute of Public Affairs Fort Hays State University
The Docking Institute of Public Affairs at Fort Hays State University conducted the 2019 Kansas Speaks fall survey from August 26 to October 14, 2019. A random sample of 352 adult residents of Kansas age 18 and older were surveyed by telephone to assess their attitudes and opinions regarding various issues of interest to Kansas citizens. The survey finds:
A week after a wave of female first-time candidates won big in city-level elections, Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly was in Johnson County on Tuesday to kick off the campaigns of a group of women running for the statehouse in next year’s races.
In an appearance at the Johnson County Democrats offices in Overland Park, Kelly said it’s important for women to take on leadership roles. Newly elected women — from both sides of the aisle and in the House and the Senate — have been able to make “an incredible difference in the state,” she said.
Democrat Joy Koesten announced her plans to run for the Kansas Senate, District 11 on Nov. 12.
“Voters deserve a candidate who will not have to constantly endure extreme political pressure to follow their party’s agenda,” Koesten said in an event at the Johnson County Democrats headquarters last week. “They deserve a leader who will always advocate for sound public policy that aligns with the values and priorities of the district.”
From the Jewish Chronicle
With suicide among young people rising at alarming rates here and around the country, Joy and Stewart Koesten of Leawood have launched a campaign to fund an Endowed Professorship in Developmental and Behavioral Health at Children’s Mercy Hospital supporting research into adolescent depression and suicide prevention.
“We are extremely grateful for the Koestens’ financial gift and their recognition of our mission to care and advocate for children,” said Jenea Oliver, the hospital’s vice president of philanthropy and chief development officer. “This endowed fund will help us fulfill that mission as it relates to teen depression and suicide.”
Through a combination of annual gifts and planned-giving from the Koestens plus contributions from other donors, the endowed professorship eventually will total $1.5 million. The first year’s fundraising goal is $500,000: $300,000 coming from the Koestens and $200,000 being raised from outside contributions.
The first $50,000 contribution has come from Mike Cummings and Pam Miller of Kansas City, Missouri. As a young person, Pam struggled with the emotional and physical abuse caused by her parents’ alcoholism. “I could tell no one. I barely made it through it all,” Pam said. “We want no one else to experience that pain or to feel so alone, ever.”
The Koestens’ own experience as parents dealing with a young person’s anxiety, depression, addiction and suicide fears spanned a decade. “In our own family, we lived with all of that. Thankfully, we and our daughter survived but we’ve known many other families throughout our community who had similar struggles that didn’t end as well,” said Joy Koesten, a former Kansas State representative who co-chaired the House’s Mental Health Caucus. “We’re very gratified at Mike and Pam’s generosity and the other interest we’ve received as we’ve begun raising money for this project. Many people have told us this research will be an important step in better understanding depression that often leads young people to end their own lives.”
Joy’s legislative work brought her into close contact with Blue Valley schools in her district which were struggling with an increase in teen depression and suicide. At the same time, Children’s Mercy was looking for proactive ways to expand its presence in the community. Two years ago, the hospital and the school district formed a novel partnership. They share the expense of placing 19 social workers from the hospital’s staff inside Blue Valley Schools to support the District’s existing counselors and psychologists.
With her legislative experience fighting to fund mental health services coupled with her own family’s experience with teen depression, Joy applauded the new partnership and saw the early results were encouraging. “Clearly the partnership was working because in its first six months, more than 700 students were identified with an elevated risk of suicide and then were connected to additional help,” Joy said. “It shows prevention is possible and lives are saved when dollars are invested in programs supporting mental health professionals.”
Nationally, the suicide numbers are staggering. According to the national Centers for Disease Control (CDC), suicide now ranks second (behind accidents) as the leading cause of death among young people ages 10-24. CDC statistics show a death from suicide occurs every 12 minutes in the U.S.
Closer to home, reports in the local broadcast and print media have focused intense scrutiny on teen depression and suicide. A front-page article in the May 5 edition of the Kansas City Star described the metro-wide scope of the problem while staffs at Children’s Mercy Hospital have documented its increase. Its emergency rooms recorded a 39% increase in the number of its young patients needing a suicide assessment from July 2017 to June 2018. The average age of those 1,736 patients was 13; one patient assessed was only 3 years old.
Local advocacy groups and religious organizations have joined school districts and mental health professionals in responding to the rise in depression and suicides. They sponsor public seminars, panel discussions, conferences and new programs all aimed at prevention.
Most recently, superintendents from six Johnson County, Kansas, school districts jointly launched #ZeroReasonsWhy to educate their student and parent communities why “suicide is never an option” after teen suicides nearly doubled in the county during the first half of 2018. The student-driven prevention campaign organizes programs, events, speakers and activities to bolster students’ social and emotional well-being, which can stave off suicide attempts.
The Koestens are confident their endowed fund will enhance all those efforts and more. “Supporting a research scholar right here in our own community who is laser focused on this problem will have enormous impact,” said Stewart Koesten, chief executive of Aspyre Wealth Partners and a past president of Jewish Family Services of Greater Kansas City. “We couldn’t start soon enough raising funds toward that goal and we hope others like Pam and Mike will join us in this effort.”
Stewart also currently serves as an officer on the Jewish Federation of Greater Kansas City board and is a trustee of the Kansas City Jewish Community Foundation.
In addition to her commitment to mental health, Joy has spent 20 years in higher education. She earned a PhD in communication studies from the University of Kansas and has taught or lectured at all three KU campuses, Johnson County Community College and Washburn University in Topeka.
For more information about their research endowment fund at Children’s Mercy, contact Joy Koesten at 913-972-7883 or Stewart Koesten at 913- 345-1881.
Anyone needing help in dealing with suicide is encouraged to call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (TALK). The hotline is staffed 24 hours a day and offers free, confidential support.
On April 22, Gov. Laura Kelly vetoed the Senate Bill 67, a bill that will prohibit a physician from providing, inducing, or attempting to provide or induce a medication abortion that uses mifepristone without informing the woman that it “may be possible” to reverse the intended effects of a medication abortion that uses mifepristone.
The bill also creates both criminal and civil charges should the physician fail to notify patients in specific ways set forth in the bill.
In other words, this bill would turn doctors into potential criminals for refusing to perform malpractice. If it is considered malpractice to give a misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis of a medical condition, illness or injury, it should remain illegal to provide inaccurate information for medication abortion. The AMA and the ACOG have voiced strong concerns about this legislation, stating there is “no credible evidence to support the argument for abortion reversal.”
The goal of both physicians and policy makers should be to dispel misinformation, especially when it comes to women’s health care.
It is vital for our legislators to sustain the governor’s veto when they return on May 1. Sadly, even “moderate” Republicans voted for this horrible piece of public policy, hoping it will save them from facing a far-right primary contender in 2020. News flash: It won’t keep them from having a far-right primary contender in 2020! It will, however, make access to abortion care more difficult for all women in Kansas.
I have never met anyone who isn’t pro-life. But I do know women who have had to terminate a pregnancy. And, I for one am grateful that Gov. Kelly understands that this bill interferes with doctor/patient relationship by providing inaccurate information about medication abortion.
This bill is also a form of subtle coercion wrapped in the false narrative of “abortion regret” from the anti-choice lawmakers, portraying women as incapable of making decisions about their bodies, their health and their future.
Women are quite capable decision makers who know what is best for their own lives and they deserve to be given only medically accurate information. I trust women to make these very private and difficult decisions with guidance from their physicians, faith leaders and families.
Our lawmakers should trust women, too, and they should vote to sustain the governor’s veto on SB 67.
Joy has blogged extensively about her experience and activities in the legislature and beyond.