Senate Bill 218 ( .PDF )
Topeka It’s just one line in a 16-page bill, but abortion rights advocates say it represents a callous overreach by anti-abortionists.
Under Senate Bill 218, a woman seeking an abortion must be informed at least 24 hours before the procedure that, “The abortion will terminate the life of a whole, separate, unique, living human being.”
Sens. Marci Francisco, D-Lawrence, and David Haley, D-Kansas City, Kan., criticized the language.
In dire situations, such as when a woman decides to have an abortion because of anencephaly, in which the fetus hasn’t developed a brain, the woman is suffering enough mental anguish without being informed that she is terminating a life, Francisco said.
Francisco said the required information about terminating a life “could be adding significant pain, and unnecessary pain.” Haley said the line in the bill amounted to “torture” for women facing the toughest of situations.
Not so, say those who oppose abortion.
They say they are hearing from women who say they consented to having abortions after being told the fetus was a mass of tissue.
Michael Schuttloffel, executive director of the Kansas Catholic Conference, said, “Our view is that giving women such medically false information is profoundly insensitive to women. Women should be fully informed, they should be given medically accurate information as they would be in the case of any other medical procedure.”
The language is taken from a law in South Dakota that has been upheld by a federal appellate court.
And Schuttloffel said it would be unfair not to provide this information.
“As a medical matter, the unborn child is not just a part of the woman’s body,” he said. “It has its own blood, its own unique DNA, its own body, etc. These are medical facts that are pertinent to the decision of whether to terminate this life. I think the real question is, why would these facts not be presented to a woman about to make the most important decision of her life?”
But opponents of the bill say the required information amounts to “state-mandated ideology,” according to Peter Brownlie, president and chief executive officer of Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri.
“Instead of informing and empowering women confronted with the decision whether to have an abortion, this bill mandates misleading information and coercive tactics,” Brownlie said.
The Legislature approved the bill shortly before lawmakers adjourned the main part of their 2009 session. The question now is whether Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, an abortion rights supporter, will sign it into law, allow it to become law without her signature or veto it.
Her office is not saying what she will do with the measure.
The controversial line is a small part of a larger bill that also contains significant changes in the state’s late-term abortion law. If a girl or woman later believes her late-term abortion was illegal, she, her husband or parents could sue the doctor who performed the abortion for damages under the measure. And it would require physicians performing late-term abortions to note in detail the specific medical condition for the procedure.