Topeka Filling a request from Gov. Sam Brownback, a coalition of Kansas House conservatives filed legislation on Wednesday to tighten state regulations on abortion.
The bill would change Kansas law to require parental consent for teenagers to get abortions and increase reporting requirements by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. It also would give the attorney general and county prosecutors access to state health reports on abortions performed in the state.
Rep. Lance Kinzer, an Olathe Republican, said that the bill also contained late-term abortion provisions vetoed over the past three years by Democratic Govs. Kathleen Sebelius and Mark Parkinson.
Brownback had asked for the measures in his State of the State address. The bill has 63 of the 125 House members signed on as sponsors. It takes 63 votes in the chamber for measures to pass.
"This is the beginning of the process of the Legislature taking steps to comply with that request," Kinzer said.
He said the legislation was aimed at preventing another doctor from coming to Kansas to begin providing late-term abortions following the May 2009 killing of Wichita's Dr. George Tiller. Kinzer also said the law would bring Kansas in line with the federal ban on a procedure opponents call partial-birth abortion.
"Certainly, I think legislative inaction, at this point in time, really opens up that opportunity," Kinzer said. "We think it's important to act proactively to make sure that the same loopholes and lack of enforcement that allowed Kansas to become a late-term abortion destination spot don't exist in our laws going forward."
Planned Parenthood spokeswoman Sarah Gillooly said since Tiller's death no abortions were being provided in Kansas after the 22nd week of pregnancy.
"I that think it's a shame that politicians are spending taxpayer time and money to regulate a procedure that doesn't even occur in our state," Gillooly said.
She said after Tiller's murder by an anti-abortion activist and efforts by former Republican Attorney General Phill Kline to prosecute abortion providers that the climate in Kansas is not conducive for abortion providers to relocate to the state.
"I think it's totally unfounded fear. What physician would want to provide that care in the state?" Gillooly said.
The legislation would increase reporting requirements for the KDHE, requiring providers to disclose a specific medical diagnosis to justify the abortion of a viable pregnancy.
State law says such pregnancies can't be terminated at 22 weeks or later unless the woman faces death or a "substantial and irreversible impairment" of a major bodily function, including her mental health, if the pregnancy continues. The bill would require a "good faith" medical determination of such a condition.
Anti-abortion legislators have long complained that the KDHE was lax in interpreting these requirements and allowed providers to give few specifics about why abortions were required.
Kinzer said he hoped that with the new measure to give greater guidance and the change of administration the lax practice would cease.
"For many years, it was this lack of proper enforcement of that particular standard that created a loophole, and quite frankly, made Kansas a leader unfortunately in the field of late-term abortion," Kinzer said.
Other provisions would require more reporting of evidence of sexual abuse of minors who are seeking abortions, as well as allowing for civil lawsuits for violation of late-term abortion restrictions.
The bill is scheduled to have a hearing next week in the House Federal and State Affairs Committee. Kinzer said the measure could likely clear the House and be over in the Senate by the end of January and on Brownback's desk in February.
Kinzer said legislators are considering seeking a law similar to one passed last year in Nebraska that outlaws abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy, based on the disputed idea that the fetus can feel pain.
A separate bill was filed last week by Rep. Steve Huebert, a Valley Center Republican, which would eliminate the mental health provision for late-term abortions. A hearing hasn't been scheduled for that bill.
Gillooly said legislators have enough to worry about with the state's projected $550 million budget deficit than to focus on more abortion regulations.
"I think if the legislators were interested in reducing the number of abortions in the state of Kansas they would stop mandating intrusion into the lives of Kansas families and start focusing on reducing the number of unintended pregnancies through affordable birth control and sex ed," Gillooly said.