Archive for Saturday, April 1, 2006

House clears bill allowing abortion teaching in schools

April 1, 2006


— High school students could get a more graphic explanation about abortion procedures, including whether a fetus would feel any pain during the procedure, under a bill that passed the House.

The 77-48 vote Friday on the measure, which started out dealing with reporting abortion statistics, returns the bill to the Senate to consider the House changes.

When the bill was debated Thursday, Rep. Jan Pauls amended it to say any discussion about abortion must include a description of all methods of abortion, including what state law calls partial-birth abortion. The information must include "the probable physical sensations of pain a fetus feels or detects" during the various procedures.

The bill also says that when schools offer pregnancy-related instruction, it should include information about fetal development and gestation, including pictures or drawings of the fetus at four-week increments from fertilization to full term.

"It's important that when children are being taught sex ed, they be aware of what the fetus looks like," said Pauls, D-Hutchinson.

Pauls said she didn't consider the measure an anti-abortion bill.

"If a girl might choose an abortion at some point, they would be informed," she said. "For me, it's just a disclosure. Students need to know what fetuses look like and the methods of abortion."

The bill also says the method of implementing the requirements should be left to the schools and that parents or guardians can refuse to have their child attend such instruction.

The original intent of the bill was to generate more information about abortions performed after the 22nd week of pregnancy, including details about the specific fetal anomalies, although abortion rights supporters say the true goal is to burden doctors and clinics.

Kansas Department of Health and Environment statistics show the number of reported abortions decreased from 12,327 in 2000 to 10,542 last year.

Kathy Ostrowski, a Kansans for Life lobbyist, said the bill will result in additional information about abortions so that Kansans know whether the law is being followed.

She and her fellow anti-abortion activists believe clinics openly violate restrictions, particularly on late-term procedures.

But the clinics have said repeatedly that they comply with Kansas law.

And Sen. David Haley, D-Kansas City, an abortion rights supporter, said the bill is vague about when additional information is required.

"This ambiguity would allow a zealous prosecutor or a zealous attorney general or the like to conduct further fishing expeditions," Haley said.

Haley and other abortion rights activists also criticized the requirement that human sexuality courses discuss abortion methods.

"Those are not things that most parents are going to want their 12- or 13-year-old kid to know about," said Rep. Paul Davis, D-Lawrence.

But Ostrowski said girls as young as 13 and 14 regularly receive health services because they're sexually active.

"They should know what the facts are of the pregnancy, rather than have the girl discover a few years later," she said.


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