The landlocked state of Kansas passed a law today requiring abortion clinics to be able to withstand a tsunami.
In a closely watched vote, Republicans in the state legislature mandated that all health facilities offering abortions be constructed to survive a water surge twice as strong as the one that felled Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in 2011.
The bill, known as the Deadly Wave Protection Act (DWPA), is expected to be signed into law on Friday by Republican Gov. Sam Brownback. Detractors say the legislation will impose an unnecessary burden on women’s health services in a region that has never actually experienced a tsunami. Supporters, however, say the measure is long overdue.
“The way the law is today, a woman could be at the abortion clinic with her doctor and just be swept away by a Tsunami wave,” explains Rep. Arlen Siegfreid, the bill’s sponsor. “This law is designed to do one thing: help protect the health of the mother and her unborn child from this deadly threat.
“Of course these changes will be very costly to implement. We estimate that each clinic will have to spend about $4.2 million to become Tsunami-proof. But can we really put a price on saving pregnant women from natural disasters? I don’t think so.”
Today’s tsunami legislation is just the latest of long line of laws passed in Republican-dominated states designed to restrict access to abortion by overwhelming providers with costly new regulations.
A law in Texas requiring abortion doctors to have admitting privileges at local hospitals went into effect last month, and has succeeded in closing down a third of all providers in the state. A law in Virginia forcing clinics to meet extremely strict building codes is also expected to come into force in the coming months.
The Kansas bill stands out, however, because it is thousands of miles from the ocean and most experts agree that it is very unlikely the state will ever experience a tsunami. Supporters of the bill point out, however, that a killer wave is not impossible.
“65 million years ago a giant meteor struck the Gulf of Mexico and caused a mass extinction that killed the dinosaurs,” explains Siegfreid. “Now if a similar strike happened today, the tsunami it generated could easily reach Kansas. Women inside abortion clinics would be in grave danger.”
Planned Parenthood says it will bring legal challenges to the new law, which they say is unconstitutional. The case could potentially reach the Supreme Court, where the bill has already attracted fans.
“I don’t see a problem with it,” says Justice Antonin Scalia. “This is clearly consistent with the founders’ intent to ban abortion in all circumstances.”