Topeka Gov. Kathleen Sebelius signed a bill Friday to ensure that women and girls seeking abortions are allowed to see ultrasound images or hear their fetus’ heartbeat before the procedure.
The new law will take effect July 1, making Kansas the 13th state to require that abortion providers offer patients a chance to see ultrasound images, according to national groups.
Sebelius is an abortion rights supporter who has vetoed other legislation sought by anti-abortion groups, but she has not specifically criticized ultrasound requirements.
Spokeswoman Beth Martino said Sebelius concluded that this year’s bill had no constitutional flaws, didn’t jeopardize patient privacy and did not block access to health services.
Sebelius is awaiting U.S. Senate confirmation as President Barack Obama’s nominee as federal secretary of health and human services. Anti-abortion groups in Washington have criticized her appointment, and Kansas abortion foes had predicted she would sign the bill to appear more moderate.
In a statement, Sebelius said Kansans want politicians to move beyond such divisive legislative debates and tackle issues such as improving health care and controlling health care costs.
“Now, more than ever, we need to focus on those priorities which unite the people of Kansas,” she said.
The bill amends a state law requiring doctors to obtain a patient’s informed consent before performing an abortion. The measure says abortion providers who use ultrasound or monitor fetal heartbeats must give their patients access to the images or sound at least 30 minutes before an abortion.
Supporters of the bill said it will ensure women have enough information to make decisions about abortion and protect their health.
But Peter Brownlie, president and chief executive officer of Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri, said its Overland Park clinic already allows women to see ultrasound images.
He said few women accept the offer. Also, the clinic rarely monitors fetal heartbeats, he said.
“We had hoped that Governor Sebelius would veto the bill, and we’re disappointed that she did not,” Brownlie said. “We give people complete information so they can make their own decisions.”
Providers would have to provide information about free counseling for medically difficult pregnancies or services available if a baby would be stillborn or die shortly after birth.
The bill also requires providers to post a notice that says it is illegal for anyone, regardless of their relationship, to try to force a woman or girl to have an abortion. The notice also would have to say: “You have the right to change your mind at any time prior to the actual abortion.”