Topeka — Rep. John Solbach, D-Lawrence, said the House Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on a bill that compels women convicted of certain drug offenses to be implanted with a birth-control device.
Solbach, chair of the committee, said the hearing, which may occur within the next few weeks, was a courtesy to the bill's sponsor, Rep. Kerry Patrick, R-Leawood.
Solbach hasn't endorsed the bill and doesn't think the Legislature would pass it.
"I think it may be unconstitutional, but I will listen to conferees who know more about it than I do before I draw that conclusion," Solbach said.
Sen. Wint Winter Jr., R-Lawrence, said if the bill makes it to the Senate Judiciary Committee, which he chairs, there won't be a hearing.
"My own personal view is that it wouldn't rise to the level of justifying a hearing in our committee. There are too many other things going on," Winter said.
UNDER PATRICK'S bill, women convicted of heroin or cocaine possession would be required to have the contraceptive Norplant implanted in an arm for at least 12 months as a condition of probation. It could be removed if the woman passed random drug testing for a year.
"We need to protect the unborn," Patrick said. "We need to protect the taxpayer, because the economic and social costs of crack babies are quite high."
He said court-ordered birth control could save the state thousands of dollars in hospital bills and reduce the number of babies addicted to drugs at birth.
Norplant is a long-lasting contraceptive implanted just beneath the skin in a woman's upper arm. The implants slowly release a synthetic hormone that prevents pregnancy.
Next to sterilization, its 99 percent effectiveness rate makes Norplant the most reliable method of birth control. When removed, fertility is restored.
PATRICK'S bill was introduced during the 1991 legislative session but wasn't heard by a committee.
Kerry said prospects for gaining the Legislature's endorsement of the Norplant bill are better this session than last.
"People are more educated on the problems of crack babies now. They're educated about the costs involved, the tragedy to babies, how their development is affected," he said.
Patrick said the cost to Kansas taxpayers to provide basic public assistance to a mother until a crack baby is legally an adult is about $200,000.
A companion bill that Patrick introduced last session died in the House Federal and State Affairs Committee.
Under that bill, the state would have paid women on welfare $500 to get on Norplant and $50 a year to keep the device. The goal was to reduce pregnancies by women on welfare, Patrick said.