We talked last week about Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback (R) signing sweeping legislation on Friday, restricting reproductive rights in the state. It’s one of the more aggressive efforts we’ve seen – the measure, among other things, declares that life begins “at fertilization,” and requires medical professionals to provide bogus information about a non-existent connection between abortion and breast cancer.
What I did not know is that the Republican governor, while putting his signature on the bill, wrote something else on the page.
An Associated Press photograph taken before the signing shows a page of notes about the bill on Brownback’s desk that included a handwritten message at the top: “JESUS + Mary.” Further down the page were typewritten notes spelling out Brownback’s belief that the bill would create “a culture of life.”
Brownback’s office didn’t respond immediately to requests Friday afternoon for additional information about the notes.
I don’t mean to sound picky, but in the United States, according to the Supreme Court, laws need to have a secular purpose in order to be constitutional under the separation of church and state. When a governor writes “JESUS + Mary” at the top of an anti-abortion bill, it makes me wonder if maybe, just maybe, the policy’s purpose isn’t entirely secular.
There are already constitutional concerns about the new Kansas policy. Is it legal under Roe v. Wade? Under free-speech laws, can states require private physicians to say things they know to be false? But when the case reaches the courts, don’t be too surprised if the “JESUS + Mary” writing at the top of the page becomes relevant.
Update: To clarify, Brownback wrote the religious message on his notes about the bill, not the bill itself. Either way, it doesn’t inspire confidence about the nature of the policy effort.