Kansas Legislature tightens restrictions on abortions after 21st week of pregnancy

? The Kansas Legislature on Tuesday placed tighter restrictions on abortions after the 21st week of pregnancy based on the disputed notion that fetuses can feel pain.

The measure now goes to Gov. Sam Brownback for his signature after the House voted 94-28 to accept Senate amendments to a version the House had passed earlier.

A second bill, requiring doctors to obtain the consent of both parents before performing an abortion on a minor, also goes to Brownback, a Republican. The House had approved the measure earlier in the session and voted Tuesday by 100-22 to accept minor Senate amendments.

Brownback is expected to sign both pieces of legislation. He’s called on lawmakers to create what he called a culture of life.

The fetal pain measure says no abortions can be performed after the 21st week of pregnancy unless a woman or girl’s life is in danger or unless she faces substantial and permanent harm to her physical health. The bill justifies those restrictions by saying medical evidence shows the fetus can feel pain at that point.

When signed, Kansas would join Nebraska in restricting abortions on the grounds that the fetus can feel pain. Nebraska passed its law in 2010 and several other states are considering similar restrictions.

Critics of the fetal pain bill contend that it relies on bad science. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has said it knows of no legitimate evidence showing a fetus can experience pain. The group said certain hormones developing in the final trimester must be present for a fetus to feel pain.

“This bill is based on false information that is not documented in the medical literature,” said Rep. Barbara Bollier, a Mission Hills Republican and retired anesthesiologist. “I would be embarrassed for us as state to make a law that is based on untruth and not documented medical fact.”

But Rep. Lance Kinzer, an Olathe Republican, read a list of references to medical journals citing research suggesting that the fetus can feel pain by 20 weeks.

“The reality is, there’s ample evidence,” he said. “The medical evidence is compelling. It is well documented.”

The consent bill changes Kansas law which now requires that a doctor notify one parent before performing a minor on an abortion. The bill would require the doctor to obtain consent from both parents — in writing and notarized. However, it would allow a minor to go to court to avoid the requirement.

According to the National Council of State Legislatures, 24 states have parental consent laws. Two, Mississippi and North Dakota, require consent from both parents. Courts have blocked three additional states from enforcing their consent laws.