Abortion bill wins first-round approval in House
Topeka ? A bill that anti-abortion lawmakers say will lead to tighter restrictions on late-term abortions advanced Monday in the House.
The bill, given first-round approval on a voice vote, requires women to receive more information about the fetus and the procedure beforehand. It also addresses underage women, who supporters say often are coerced into having an abortion. A final vote of approval is needed to send the measure to the Senate.
Sponsoring Rep. Lance Kinzer said the legislation didn’t outlaw any legal procedure, including late-term abortions that involve a fetus determined to be 22 weeks or older.
The bill requires abortion providers to give a woman having a late-term abortion copies of documents stating the reason for the procedure and whether it’s needed to prevent substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function, as the law requires.
“Many times, women don’t know the justification for an abortion unless they seek their medical records,” said the Olathe Republican.
It also requires doctors, at least a half hour before any abortion, to allow a woman to view the ultrasound image of a fetus and the heartbeat sound if that type equipment is used.
It also requires physicians to inform a woman at least 24 hours before any abortion about free counseling and free hospice services for fetuses or terminally ill newborns.
Under the bill, the State Board of Healing Arts must revoke a physician’s license to practice if he is convicted of performing an illegal late-term abortion, unless two-thirds of the board decides the doctor poses no public threat.
Reactions from both sides of the issue were predictable.
“It’s wonderful. It’s not deficient anywhere,” said Kathy Ostrowski, of Kansans for Life, the state’s largest anti-abortion organization.
Julie Burkhart, lobbyist for the abortion rights group ProKanDo, said the bill doesn’t help women.
“The intent is to restrict access, to block access, and it does nothing to protect the health, safety and well-being of women,” she said.
Efforts to send the bill back to the Federal and State Affairs Committee failed, as did a move to replace its language with another bill that isn’t as far reaching.
“It’s our annual debate. Why don’t we leave what we have on the books, which is a very tight law?” said Rep. Annie Kuether, a Topeka Democrat who tried to return the bill to committee.
But Rep. Peggy Mast, an Emporia Republican, said, “We need to give women more time to think about their decision.”
Kinzer said women often are coerced by parents are others to undergo an abortion.
“The time to ensure women in the state don’t face coercive abortions is now,” he added.
The bill requires any minor seeking any abortion to provide proof of identification and residence. Any person accompanying a minor also must provide identification and sign a statement about their relationship and whom the father of the fetus might be.
Kinzer said the bill also clarifies the steps a minor must take to get a judge to allow the abortion if the girl doesn’t want to tell her parents.
It also allows any group of 10 citizens to file a lawsuit against the Kansas Department of Health and Environment if they feel the agency hasn’t released all the information required by law about abortions performed in the state.
The department says it’s following the law.
“The report is not being issued with all the information required by law,” Kinzer said. “The question is whether the report is compliant with the law.”
According to health department, 11,221 abortions were performed in 2006, of which 380 were late-term. In 2000, 12,323 abortions were performed, 639 of them late-term.
Abortion opponents say doctors filling out the required state paperwork simply recite the language of the statute in listing a reason, rather than providing a specific medical reason.
The bill also allows a woman who had a late-term abortion, her husband if he’s the father, or parents if she’s a minor to file a lawsuit for monetary damages for violations of the law.