Topeka Anti-abortion advocates Thursday urged passage of bills prohibiting abortions based on the sex of the unborn child, and banning lawsuits based on a claim of "wrongful birth."
Senate Bill 142 would prevent parents of a child born with birth defects from suing their doctor under a claim that negligent treatment or advice deprived them of the chance to terminate the pregnancy.
"We consider this bill civil rights for the unborn," Kathy Ostrowski, legislative director of Kansans for Life, told the House Corrections and Juvenile Justice Committee.
But abortion rights advocates said the proposal could allow a doctor to not tell a woman that her fetus has a severe defect because of the doctor's concerns over a potential abortion.
Several members of the committee said they had concerns about this too.
After a brief debate, Rep. Blaine Finch, R-Ottawa, said, "We are not completely certain as a committee the effect of the language in this bill."
But supporters of the measure said if a doctor were to intentionally lie to a patient, a lawsuit could be filed based on medical malpractice.
Despite the misgivings by several members, the committee on a voice vote recommended that the full House approve the bill.
Earlier Thursday, another committee heard conflicting testimony over a measure that would prohibit abortions based on the sex of the unborn child.
"The time to end violent discrimination based on gender is long overdue," Jeanne Gawdun, senior lobbyist for Kansans for Life, told the House Federal and State Affairs Committee.
Gawdun said abortion based on gender is almost always targeted against females and occurs in several countries, such as China and India, and among certain cultures in the United States.
She cited research by Steven Mosher, president of the Population Research Institute, who testified earlier this session that high boy-birth rates in Asian-American communities in the United States prove gender selection abortion is occurring.
Rep. Annie Tietze, D-Topeka, asked Gawdun how many sex selection abortions have occurred in Kansas.
"We don't have statistics specifically from Kansas," Gawdun said.
The ACLU of Kansas and Western Missouri filed testimony against the bill, saying it would interfere with a woman's private medical decisions.
"Rather than passing laws that target particular populations and insert politics into personal, private medical decisions, the Legislature should devote time and resources to passing laws that would improve the lives of women, their families, and their communities," said Holly Weatherford, program director of the ACLU of Kansas and Western Missouri.
Senate Bill 141, which was approved in the Senate 37-2, says that anyone who performs an abortion with knowledge that the woman wanted to end her pregnancy because of the sex of the unborn child would be charged with a misdemeanor upon a first conviction and felony upon a subsequent conviction.
In addition, the woman, her husband, or the parents or guardian of a woman under 18, could file a civil lawsuit against the abortion provider.
Michael Shuttloffel, executive director of the Kansas Catholic Conference, told legislators that if they oppose the bill they must think it's OK to end a life "just because she is a girl."
But several members of the committee said that while they opposed abortion because of the gender of the unborn, it would be difficult to prove an abortion was done based on sex selection.