Topeka A Kansas legislator has filed a bill that would prohibit late-term abortions that are currently allowed for mental health reasons.
Under Kansas law, late-term abortions can be performed on fetuses after the 21st week of pregnancy only if a woman or a girl faces death or harm to a major bodily function, which includes mental health.
House Bill 2007, by Rep. Steve Huebert, R-Valley Center, states, “Bodily function means physical function. The term ‘bodily function’ does not include mental or emotional functions.”
Huebert said Tuesday, “I do believe it (the mental health exception) has been used to circumvent laws that regulate late-term abortions.”
Huebert said he expects laws passed by Kansas and other states that further restrict abortion will ultimately be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court. He also said his proposal may become part of a broader bill in the current legislative session that could contain other restrictions.
Some Kansas legislators have said they want to consider a law similar to one approved in Nebraska that outlaws abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy based on the claim that fetuses can feel pain at that point.
There has also been talk of again approving measures that were vetoed by former governors Kathleen Sebelius and Mark Parkinson, both of whom supported a woman’s right to an abortion.
Gov. Sam Brownback, a Republican who took office on Monday, opposes abortion rights and has said he will sign legislation to further restrict abortions.
In 2009, there were 9,474 abortions performed in Kansas, according to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. Of that number, 121 were late-term abortions.
Peter Brownlie, president and chief executive officer of Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri, said the organization would fight legislation to restrict abortions.
“Our position is that complex physical and mental health issues are up to doctors and patients to decide, and not the Legislature,” Brownlie said. He said if legislators want to reduce the number of abortions they should ensure access to low-cost birth control and support sex education in schools.
Concerning Huebert’s bill, Brownlie said, “There is a whole string of case law at the federal level indicating that the mental health of a woman has to be considered in these complex and difficult situations.”
He said it was likely Brownback would sign an anti-abortion bill into law, and then abortion rights supporters would probably challenge it in court.
Brownlie also said the number of late-term abortions done in Kansas, which Huebert’s bill deals with, will be lower when 2010 figures are released because of the murder of Dr. George Tiller. Tiller’s clinic was one of the few in the nation performing late-term abortions. Tiller was shot and killed May 31, 2009, while serving as an usher at his church. Anti-abortion activist Scott Roeder is serving a life sentence in prison for murdering Tiller.