Topeka — Anti-abortion legislators on Friday criticized the Kansas University Medical Center and pushed through a proposal that some said could jeopardize its accreditation.
State Rep. Joe Patton, R-Topeka, said he believed KU Medical Center officials want to use taxpayer funds to perform abortions. "I don't think they should be doing that," Patton said.
Near the end of a more than 6-hour debate on a state appropriations bill, Patton proposed an amendment that would prohibit any state employee acting within the scope of his or her employment from performing an abortion, with the exception being to save the life of the pregnant woman.
But several legislators said Patton's amendment could cost the school accreditation of its obstetrics-gynecology program. Medical residents are considered state employees and receive OB-GYN training in abortion related procedures, unless they opt out for religious or moral reasons.
State Rep. Kathy Wolfe Moore, D-Kansas City, Kan. said she was "pro-life," but could not vote for Patton's proposal. "We cannot risk taking a bad vote. I absolutely refuse to put the accreditation at KU Medical Center and OB-GYN at risk," she said.
KU Medical Center issued a statement that said residents are trained in abortion procedures through a contract with the University of Colorado School of Medicine. "The University of Kansas, in fulfilling both the letter and spirit of the law, has not allowed residents to receive this required training in state-owned facilities," the statement said.
And the statement noted that abortions are not performed at KU Hospital, which is the primary site of residency training for residents at KU Medical Center.
State Rep. Sydney Carlin, D-Manhattan, said training for OB-GYN must include abortion related procedures.
"If we don't have people trained, then they cannot perform life-saving measures," she said.
Patton's amendment, however, was approved by the House on a voice vote. KU Medical Center's statement said officials would continue to work with legislators to avoid unintended consequences that could threaten the school of medicine's accreditation.
The debate occurred just one day after the House Federal and State Affairs Committee approved a wide-ranging anti-abortion bill that included a provision sought by KU Medical Center.
That provision exempted KU Medical Center for one year from the bill, which is called the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act. Supporters of the KU provision said it addressed KU Medical Center's concerns about accreditation, and gave legislators more time to study the issue.
But on Friday before the full House, Patton, who is vice chair of that committee, said he wasn't satisfied.
He said KU claimed it needed the exemption to keep its accreditation. But he said he didn't believe that was true.
That position is backed by the influential anti-abortion group Kansans for Life.
“Expert medical advisers say the act of ending the lives of unborn children does not need to be performed, or watched, in order to learn how to evacuate the uterus, and to learn how to manage pregnancy and abortion complications,” said Mary Kay Culp, executive director of Kansans for Life.
But the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education says that residency programs for OB-GYN “must have an established curriculum for family planning, including complications of abortions and provisions for the opportunity for direct procedural training in terminations of pregnancy for those residents who desire it.” There is an “opt out” provision for those who have religious or moral objections to performing abortions.
Patton said he had a lot of questions about the issue, but KU officials refused to testify publicly before the committee.
Earlier Friday, Senate leaders were cool to the bill that came out of the Federal and State Committee.
In addition to the tax issues related to abortion, the bill would require physicians inform women seeking abortion of an unproven assertion: that there is a risk of breast cancer from the procedure.
Another part of the bill would eliminate a civil cause of action for wrongful life or wrongful death, which abortion rights advocates say could allow physicians to conceal from the pregnant woman information about abnormalities in the fetus.