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An Action Alert from Tracy Russell, Executive Director of Nurture KC

During my three and a half years at Nurture KC, I have preached the importance of politics and policy as a key driver of maternal and infant health, necessitating our advocacy. Today, with the overturning of Roe v. Wade, this reality is driven home in the most painful of ways, with women losing bodily autonomy and reproductive freedom in an instant after 50 years of settled law.

As an organization that aids pregnant women in navigating the system and circumstances to ensure healthy births, you might question our involvement in the right to choose abortion. It is precisely because of what we see daily – and the connection between reproductive freedom and maternal and infant health – that drives our belief that a great injustice has been done to women and families. The mothers we serve live in the ZIP codes of Kansas City, MO and Kansas City, KS with the highest rates of infant mortality in the metro. They are often the poorest of the poor, facing barriers in daily living that most of us take for granted. While this is a universal issue, the brunt of this decision will be borne by those least-advantaged, particularly Black families. Shannon Williams, Healthy Start Program Director, was interviewed by KSHB-41 News on this topic, which can be viewed here.

Kansas will be the first state to vote on the question of maintaining reproductive freedom and protecting women’s health. On August 2, there is a ballot initiative that would place the authority to restrict/ban abortion with the legislature, reversing a Kansas Supreme Court decision that reinforced the constitutional right to privacy and abortion two years ago. A “no” vote on August 2 protects a woman’s right to choose while a “yes” vote allows what is anticipated to be a ban through legislative action next session. While many of us resent the fact that women’s health is a political issue, please vote! A woman’s life may depend on it.

Missouri already ranks a dismal 44th nationally in maternal mortality, with a rate for Black mothers three times that of White mothers. Missouri is also one of the states that has a “trigger” law that essentially banned abortion as soon as the Supreme Court decision was released. This is against the backdrop of a legislative session in which lawmakers defeated an effort to extend postpartum Medicaid coverage to one year, a policy that would truly value the lives of Missouri mothers and their children.

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We must protect our communities against preventable diseases, as well as from the spread of disease that may present in our communities. The Kansas Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee passed two bills this week that would put all of us at risk. We need your help to take action and stop these bills from passing on the Senate floor. These bills are getting further and the consequences to public health would be dire. We need to send a strong message that this is not what is best for Kansans, and this is also not what Kansans want to see happen. (View recent vaccine polling data from Kansas.)

How can you help?
1) Click “read more” below to learn about these two bills.
2) Reach out to your Senator via email or phone to let them know you oppose this legislation, and your concerns for how it would negatively impact the health of Kansans. (Find my legislator: https://openstates.org/find_your_legislator/)

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Nurture KC commissioned a statewide survey, conducted by Public Opinion Strategies, to see how Kansas voters actually felt about vaccines. The results were just publicly released tonight by Tracy Russell, Executive Director of Nurture KC, at the Immunize Kansas Coalition’s virtual legislative reception. The Kansas immunization poll results show routine vaccinations have overwhelming bipartisan support. This public opinion is newsworthy to share, as some Kansas lawmakers are trying to dilute state immunization requirements. Click “read more” below to read Nurture KC’s news release on this issue. Then, take action by contacting your state representative or senator to let them know Kansas vaccine requirements should not be altered, as these standards keep our community safe.

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Legislation: House Bill 37 will be introduced to the Missouri House floor sometime this week (April 26 – April 30). This legislation would radically expand vaccine exemptions to include a conscientious belief exemption and require all public schools to accept vaccination exemptions written by parents without a doctor’s signature. This bill exempts private schools from requiring any immunizations.

HB 37 has also been amended to prohibit entities in the state from issuing or requiring vaccine passports or vaccination records (i.e. COVID-19 vaccination record cards).  The addition of this language is intended to garner broader support, even though a vaccine passport has not been proposed or endorsed in Missouri.

Additionally, the language of HB 37 has been amended on to House Bill 682, a bill limiting public colleges from requiring students to live in on-campus housing. HB 682 could be introduced on the Missouri House floor at any time.

Your Action is Needed Now:

MAIC urges you to reach out to your Kansas City area representatives and tell them to vote “no” on HB 37 and its amendments. See the proposed policy changes by clicking “read more” below and reference these in your communication as reasons to oppose HB 37. Each provision would dilute Missourians’ protection from preventable diseases.

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House Bill 20 provides the necessary funding for expanding Medicaid in Missouri. Medicaid expansion is a key component in improving maternal and infant health. Last Week, HB 20 failed to pass in the Missouri House Budget Committee. As you know, Missouri voters voted to support Medicaid Expansion last summer. Providing the funding to make expansion a reality and act on the will of the people is critical. Our focus now moves to Senate efforts to restore Medicaid expansion funding. Click “read more” below to learn how you can help us take action.

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Click “read more” below to see testimony from Shelby Ostrom, MAIC Program Director, in opposition to Senate Bill 212. This bill would ban the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) from requiring new vaccines for Kansas school children. Her testimony was presented to Chairman Hilderbrand and members of the Committee on Public Health and Welfare. Please help us oppose Bill 212!

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