Archive for Sunday, April 7, 2013

‘At fertilization’ declaration gives some pause

April 7, 2013


A phrase declaring that life begins “at fertilization” tucked into new abortion legislation in Kansas is creating concern among abortion rights advocates that the wording will inspire new attempts to prevent the procedure.

Supporters of the measure said the language is no more than a statement of principle — similar to those found in several states, including neighboring Missouri — rather than an attempt to prevent any pregnancies from being terminated. But advocates on both sides of the issue acknowledge the wording could prove helpful to abortion opponents over time.

The bill, sent late Friday to Gov. Sam Brownback, would block potential tax breaks for abortion providers and ban them from furnishing materials or instructors for public school sex education classes. It also outlaws sex-selection abortions and spells out in greater detail what information doctors must provide to women before an abortion.

The measure’s provision declaring that life begins at fertilization says that “unborn children have interests in life, health and well-being that should be protected” and that their parents also have “protectable interests” in their children’s well-being. A similar idea is embodied in “personhood” measures in other states, which are aimed at revising their constitutions to ban abortion; none have been enacted, though the question will be put to North Dakota voters in 2014.

However, Kansas lawmakers aren’t trying to change the state constitution to ban abortions, and the provision notes that any rights suggested by the language are limited by decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court. Should Brownback — a Republican and a strong abortion opponent — sign the bill as expected, Kansas would become the 14th state to have such language in its laws, according to the National Right to Life Committee.

Many anti-abortion legislators see ‘at fertilization’ statements as symbolic. But it could underpin lawsuits by prospective parents or grandparents who want to block abortions or be cited by abortion opponents in pushing law enforcement officials to scrutinize clinics, said Troy Newman, president of the anti-abortion group Operation Rescue.

“For me, this is just delightful,” Newman said. “It opens up so many avenues.”

Kansas isn’t the only state to seek new abortion restrictions during this year’s legislative sessions. Last month, Arkansas banned most abortions after the 12th week of pregnancy, and a couple weeks later, North Dakota’s governor signed into a law a measure that prohibits abortions as early as the sixth week.

Abortion rights advocates said Kansas’ new restrictions won’t be as severe as those states, but they also don’t trust assertions from abortion opponents that the language on when life begins represents only a statement of principles.

“Could it be used as a tool of harassment? Absolutely,” said Holly Weatherford, lobbyist and program director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas and Western Missouri.

But so far, similar language in other states — including Illinois, Nebraska, Ohio and Pennsylvania — has failed to trigger high-profile court challenges, experts say.

A preamble to Missouri’s abortion restrictions that states that life begins at conception has been in place since 1986 and has been upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court, which said states can “make a value judgment favoring childbirth over abortion.” The only notable effect in Missouri came in 2010, when a law required that women wanting an abortion must be given a brochure that includes a statement taken from the preamble: “The life of each human being begins at conception.”

Paul Linton, a constitutional scholar and special counsel to the Thomas More Society in Chicago, said Illinois’ “fertilization” language is part of the preamble to the 1975 Illinois Abortion Act. But it doesn’t have any substantive effect and lacks enough detail to reinstate pre-Roe vs. Wade abortion law in the state.

“It’s more of a policy expression or a wish than it is substantive language,” Linton said.

Kansas House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lance Kinzer, an attorney and Olathe Republican who opposes abortion, said he sees “zero chance” that lawsuits filed against providers to block abortions or shut providers down would be successful under his state’s new language.

“It is only an aspirational statement,” he said, adding, “Symbols are important.”

But Talcott Camp, deputy director of the ACLU’s Reproductive Freedom Project, said the language could eventually “open the door to extreme interpretation of other laws. It provides something that future bill sponsors would point to, and say, ‘This is already Kansas law.’”

The new restrictions would take effect July 1, a little more than four years after Wichita Dr. George Tiller — then among the few in the U.S. known to perform late-term abortions — was shot to death as he served as an usher at his church. His killer, Scott Roeder, said he was defending the unborn.

Kansas’ abortion laws have been significantly restricted after Brownback took office in January 2011 and called on legislators to create “a culture of life.” Since then, the state has banned most abortions after the 22nd week of pregnancy, restricted private health insurance coverage for elective abortions, required doctors to obtain written permission from parents and guardians before terminating a minor’s pregnancy and provide more legal protections for health care providers who refuse to participate in abortions.

Attempts to impose special health and safety regulations for providers and to prevent Planned Parenthood from receiving public funds to provide non-abortion, family planning services are still being challenged in court.

Since Brownback’s been at the helm, the number of abortions performed in Kansas has dropped 11 percent.


Michael LoBurgio 5 years, 1 month ago

The big question in kansas now is "if men use a condom will it be considered Kidnapping?"

Jock Navels 5 years, 1 month ago

and nocturnal emmisions could warrant an involuntary manslaughter charge.

Paul R Getto 5 years, 1 month ago

The law of unintended consequences will soon become evident with this poorly-worded bill.

KSManimal 5 years, 1 month ago

OK, pregnant women and expectant fathers; now is your chance. Claim your unborn as dependents on your Kansas income tax. Watch how fast Brownback, et al, backpedal over what is and what is not a human being.

In fact, I do believe I fathered several hundred children in 2012. Unfortunately, they all miscarried in late December. But nonetheless, they were my dependents during the year so I'm going to claim them. Go ahead, rightwingers. Prove otherwise.

kernal 5 years, 1 month ago

If Brownback signs this , it will only cost Kansas taxpayers more money for more lawsuits and will resolve nothing for either side of the debate. The only thing it will do is further showcase the stupidity of the Kansas legislature, especially if it still includes that bit about abortions causing breast cancer.

Cait McKnelly 5 years, 1 month ago

Why do men think that women that don't want children get deliberately pregnant? Did you flunk biology? What do you propose that women do to "not get pregnant"? Simply not have sex unless they want a child? While that might be a financial boon for the blow up doll industry, I don't exactly see that being a practical solution, do you?
Please, give me your suggestions. I'm all ears.

repaste 5 years, 1 month ago

"Don't try to match wits with a half-wit" - Mark Twain

chootspa 5 years, 1 month ago

Yes. I'm sure women have total control over the pregnancy process. They have magic uteruses that can just shut the whole process down if there's a hole in a condom or a "legitimate" rape. What a brilliant solution. Women will just choose not to get pregnant from now on. Why didn't they think of that millennia ago?

chootspa 5 years, 1 month ago

Are you saying that you can personally hold your breath underwater for 30 minutes without special equipment? After all, it's your body. Are you saying you don't have control over it?

chootspa 5 years, 1 month ago

They should at the very least be charged with criminal neglect for not providing them with a more hospitable womb environment.

Ken Lassman 5 years, 1 month ago

And why stop at conception? The average woman provides around 400 fertilizable eggs between puberty and menopause, so if a young girl is killed, shouldn't the perpetrator be tried for mass murder? And the average guy produces enough sperm to father each and every human on the planet, so any murder of a male should be taken to the Hague and tried for genocide.

It still irks me that by removing the option of abortion in cases of rape and incest, you are essentially giving the male perpetrator's sperm greater legal standing than the woman/girl who is violated.

Welcome to the Brave New World Brownbackistan edition

50YearResident 5 years, 1 month ago

Wait until the Lawyers get into this and start creating lawsuits with a fetus as their client. Ther is no ending to how this can become a nightmare.

Cait McKnelly 5 years, 1 month ago

Wrong. Sorry, but "zygote" is a scientific term used to describe a stage of development in all mammals. "Toddler" and "teen" are social designations. There are clearly defined rules in science to determine when developing cells pass from zygote to embryo to fetus.

deec 5 years, 1 month ago



noun, plural: zygotes

A cell in diploid state following fertilization or union of haploid male sex cell (e.g. sperm) and haploid female sex cell (e.g. ovum).


To be precise, zygote is the term used to refer to the cell as a result of the fusion of two haploid nuclei during fertilization until the first cleavage. When the zygote starts to divide and multiply, it is called an embryo.

Word origin: from Greek zugōtos ‘joined’, from zugoun ‘to join’. "

notaubermime 5 years, 1 month ago

The truth of the matter is that it comes down to either an arbitrary designation of what point in the continuum that a 'human' becomes a 'person', or an endorsement of the views of an arbitrary religion.

Of course, one of the choices is in keeping with the intent of the Bill of Rights, the other is very clearly not.

Cait McKnelly 5 years, 1 month ago

I think what bothers me more than anything is the ideological language in this new law. They use "unborn child" instead of zygote/embryo/fetus. They avoid scientific terms like they are a plague and present language that makes people think that little thing swimming around in there is a one inch baby wearing a diaper. They grant it self awareness, the ability to think and "anthropomorphize" it (a term I'm using deliberately).
I don't think I can recall ANY laws that are written in such "emotional" language prior to this recent time period. This is the language of the religious ideologue and a VERY clear sign that the state is heading to becoming the "New Jerusalem".

Cait McKnelly 5 years, 1 month ago

They are NOT arbitrary. I explained to you above that there are VERY clear rules for passage from stage to stage. "Arbitrary" and "science" in the same sentence is an oxymoron.

50YearResident 5 years, 1 month ago

Won't the "Morning After Pill" become murder?

Cait McKnelly 5 years, 1 month ago

No. Despite the efforts of many right-to-lifers to vilify it, Plan B is not an abortifacient. It prevents conception.

jjt 5 years, 1 month ago

Does that mean that IUDs are now illegal in Kansas?. What is the legal situation for Doctors who prescribe an IUD? What is the legal situation for a woman who uses one?

Cait McKnelly 5 years, 1 month ago

I guess you'll find that out the next time you go to the doctor.

In_God_we_trust 5 years, 1 month ago

The proposed law is a step for the good of society to restore order and restrain the unnecessary taking of life. Laws are intended for good, not as an excuse to eliminate the life of undesirables for mere convenience. It will hopefully help restore some protections in society for those young, innocent lives that can't speak out and protect and defend themselves.

sturgen 5 years, 1 month ago

Its just sad to watch all these little people running around the capital truly thinking they are "doing the lords work" while the rest of us just sit here and pay witness. If these guys had names like Al'Shareif and were forcing this oppressive load of bull onto their populace we'd smugly call them Taliban and would then spend trillions to remove their influence and reverse any of those "oppressive" behaviors. Since they have names like sammy I guess its all ok, I mean "he does go to church." By the way, when do we get our state mandated head coverings? My girlfriend keeps walking around and you can see her face... really irks me.

jjt 5 years, 1 month ago

Seriously I wonder who or what department one asks?

deec 5 years, 1 month ago

When granny dies, good Christians often comfort the bereaved by saying it was God's will. God is said to be omnipotent and omniscient. Does it never occur to Christian pro-birthers that maybe, just maybe, God KNOWS that aborted fetuses will be aborted, and that abortion is His will?

Joe Hyde 5 years, 1 month ago

The irony of anti-abortion law that declares "life begins at fertilization" is that, if it's enforced, it prevents many women whose fetuses could only have been created with help from in vitro fertilisation from delivering a planned-for, live birth baby by means of natural childbirth.

During one of the pre-implantation steps used in in vitro fertilisation, multiple eggs are surgically harvested from the female, then after being fertilized by sperm the eggs are microscopically studied by laboratory technicians, to determine which of the eggs have developed normally (because some don't, and are not fit candidates for implanting in the woman's uterus).

Point being, each one of these "candidate eggs" was fertilized, thereby achieving the anti-abortion crowd's definition of being a "living human with full citizen rights". But when the IVF laboratory disposes of those unwanted eggs in order to improve the odds that the female will give birth to a healthy baby 9 months later, the IVF lab is -- in the eyes of anti-abortionists -- commiting a technical act of murder on a human being.

So yes: if our state's politically ambitious governor signs this bill into law with this phrase still intact, the entire law will be challenged in court immediately, and great public expense will be incurred by Kansas taxpayers when that happens, and then we'll see yet another prejudiced, scientifically ignorant anti-abortion law struck down.

Cait McKnelly 5 years, 1 month ago

Dear Indrid,
4,975,634,978 angels can dance on the head of a pin. I worked it out using π for circumference and ∞ for the weight.
Can we all go now?

Cait McKnelly 5 years, 1 month ago

Oh wait. I was off on the circumference of the pin. Damn.

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