To the editor:
I attended the debate in the Kansas House of Representatives on HB 2778, the abortion bill. In my opinion, the Associated Press coverage of the legislation was misleading.
The AP story you ran on Feb. 28 states that the bill forbids abortions after the baby is able to live outside the womb, unless a doctor said it was necessary to preserve the mother's life or health or that the fetus is seriously deformed. This sounds like an improvement in existing law, which is that Kansas is one of the few states that allows unrestricted abortions through all nine months of pregnancy. But the language is misleading. Due to the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision Doe vs. Bolton, a companion case to Roe Vs. Wade, the word "health" in abortion law is taken to encompass "all factors physical, emotional psychological, familial, and the woman's age relevant to the well-being of the patient." Because of this broad definition, whenever an exception for "health" is included in an abortion law, the law may sound reasonable, but in reality it provides for no restrictions on abortion whatsoever. An amendment to change the wording from "health" to "physical health" was defeated.
Another significant item that I did not see mentioned in AP reports was the "informed consent" amendment proposed by Rep. Susan Wagle of Wichita. This would have established a woman's right to receive information on the medical and emotional risks of abortion, the probable gestational age of her fetus, and services available in the community to assist with crisis pregnancies. It would inform her that the father is liable to provide child support, and establish a 24-hour waiting period between receiving the information and undergoing the abortion procedure. Both Wagle and Rep. Darlene Cornfield testified that frightened young women are subjected to high pressure sales jobs in the abortion facilities and that many women feel they were seriously misled by the "counseling" they received there. The amendment was defeated. I believe the vote was newsworthy in that it was the first House vote on informed consent.
All three Lawrence representatives (Betty Jo Charlton, Sandy Praeger and John Solbach) are on record favoring unrestricted late-term abortions, and opposing parental notification and informed consent.