Topeka — It's called the "No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act," but House Bill 2598, which will be worked on in committee this week, deals with much more than taxes.
The anti-abortion group Kansans for Life says the bill strengthens civil rights for the unborn and increases crucial information given to women who are thinking of getting an abortion.
In testimony on the bill, state Rep. Lance Kinzer, R-Olathe, described it as a comprehensive measure "dealing with a variety of important issues where expansion, clarification or codification is necessary in our law."
But Kari Ann Rinker, the Kansas coordinator of the National Organization for Women, calls the 68-page measure "the most sweeping anti-abortion bill in the nation."
The bill would make dozens of changes in Kansas abortion law.
House Bill 2598 ( .PDF )
Fiscal Note for HB 2598 ( .PDF )
A hearing on the legislation held last month produced the annual battle in the Statehouse between anti-abortion groups and abortion rights supporters.
Some fireworks erupted when Rinker, recalling that the Legislature and Gov. Sam Brownback enacted several major anti-abortion bills last year, offered the House Federal and State Affairs Committee a rubber stamp with the word "approved," which angered some committee members.
But then the bill faded in the background for several weeks, as the Legislature hurtled toward other issues and deadlines.
That changed last week when officials at Kansas University Medical Center informed legislators there was a provision in the bill that could jeopardize its accreditation.
According to KU, accreditation requirements say that medical residents being trained as obstretrics-gynecologists must gain experience with induced abortion and complications due to abortion, unless they have a religious or moral objection. The residents gain this experience at facilities not owned or operated by the state.
One part of HB 2598 states: “no health care services provided by any state agency, or any employee of a state agency while acting within the scope of such employee’s employment, shall include abortion.”
When legislators reported that they were working with KU to solve this issue, the influential anti-abortion group, Kansans for Life, sounded the alarm.
"Time to end University of Kansas abortion training," said a call to action by Kansans for Life. Kathy Ostrowski, of Kansans for Life, said, "There is no professional reason that ob/gyn resident physicians have to learn how to destroy unborn children in order to achieve competency in pregnancy management, stillbirth evacuation or treating abortion complications."
And she urged people to contact Brownback and legislators "to stop abortion training by KU!"
The wrangling over the bill concerning KU Medical Center has increased scrutiny of other parts of the bill as the abortion issue has gained heightened publicity across the nation.
Earlier this month, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell signed into law a bill requiring women seeking abortions undergo abdominal ultrasounds. But dropped from an earlier version of the bill, after a national uproar, was a vaginally invasive form of ultrasound.
Under the Kansas legislation, for pregnancies at least 10 weeks from the last menstrual period, the abortion provider must use a hand-held Doppler fetal monitor and "make the embryonic or fetal heartbeat of the unborn child audible for the pregnant woman to hear."
Dr. Herbert Hodes, an obstetrician-gynecologist who provides abortion services, said, "The Legislature should not be in the business of forcing medical tests on women and requiring physicians to violate their ethical obligations."
The measure would also make it a crime for a person to perform an abortion with the knowledge that the pregnant woman was seeking the abortion solely on account of the sex of the child.
The bill also requires the physician to inform a woman seeking an abortion about the risks of abortion on premature birth in future pregnancies and breast cancer. Abortion rights groups point to scientific studies that dispute this assertion.
The measure also would have the effect of creating new taxes on expenses related to abortion services or insurance coverage for abortion, and imposes state sales taxes on drugs and medications used in an abortion.
The bill also excludes the threat of suicide or self-harm from the definition of substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function for the purposes of seeking a post-viability abortion.
And it would prevent any group providing abortion services, such as Planned Parenthood, from offering materials for human sexuality classes in school districts.
And another part of the bill would eliminate a civil cause of action for wrongful life or wrongful death, according to a state bill summary. Abortion rights supporters say this may allow physicians to conceal from the pregnant woman information about abnormalities in the fetus.
The Federal and State Affairs Committee is scheduled to work on the bill either Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday.