State-level measures aiming to restrict access to safe, legal abortion through imposing onerous, excruciatingly detailed requirements on physicians and medical professionals are nothing new. Still, a bill that recently passed out of the Kansas legislature has taken things to an entirely different level. A “right to know” bill recently enacted by state lawmakers would require that women see their doctors’ full professional histories before getting an abortion. But then the language in Kansas’ new abortion bill goes even further, requiring that women receive the information from abortion clinics in black ink, in 12-point Times New Roman font, on white paper.
Both supporters and critics are calling the bill the first of its kind, according to VICE News. Dubbed the “font bill” by critics, the measure would not only force clinics to give patients printed information about their doctor’s educational history, disciplinary and malpractice history, hospital privileges, and state of residence, but dictate exactly how that information should appear on the page given to patients.
Lawmakers backing the bill argued that it ensures providers will adhere to informed consent requirements without burying necessary information in unreadable forms, according to the Associated Press. Supporters said that the font size and color requirements in the legislation made sense as “a routine rule for college students on academic papers.”
As one might expect, the law has gotten plenty of pushback from abortion rights advocates, with some pointing out that the law is likely to lead to a legal challenge, the AP reported. Advocates claimed the bill was essentially harassment, framed in a way that could easily confuse or discourage women who seek the procedure.
Women often print out the informed-consent forms themselves at home before traveling to a clinic to terminate their pregnancies, abortion rights supporters said, and if they use the wrong color of paper they would have to reschedule their appointments.
Other lawmakers oppose the Kansas bill because it applied to abortion providers but made no similar requirement on any other medical procedure, according to the Kansas City Star. Planned Parenthood Great Plains Votes has issued a statement on the so-called “font bill”, calling it “terrible legislation” based on the erroneous idea that abortion patients are more likely to go to a hospital:
The Supreme Court of the United States has already ruled hospital privilege requirements are unconstitutional. Lower courts in Kansas have agreed. Mandating abortion providers disclose their hospital relationships, is irrelevant information designed to mislead patients.
Still, Kansas has already instituted a number of abortion restrictions, according to VICE, including a 24-hour waiting period between initial counseling and getting an abortion, a required fetal ultrasound, and a ban on second-trimester procedures that is currently being challenged in the Kansas Supreme Court. As a side note, in defending its position in that case, Kansas cited the notorious Dred Scot decision to prove that certain people — in this case, women — really weren’t guaranteed personal liberty by the Declaration of Independence.
Not even kidding.
Having passed the state legislature, the “font bill” was sent to Kansas Governor Sam Brownback to be signed into law. That’s very likely, according to the Associated Press, as Brownback has signed every anti-abortion measure put before him by legislators since he entered the office in 2011.
The AP also reported that each of those provisions — and nearly every provision passed by the state over the last several decades — was printed in 10-point font.