Topeka Anti-abortion activists on Tuesday urged passage of a bill that would prohibit an abortion if a fetal heartbeat is detectable, saying the measure would lead to a challenge of the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Roe v. Wade, which struck down many state laws restricting abortion.
“This is an opportunity unlike any we’ve ever had,” said Janet Porter, president of the anti-abortion group Faith2Action. “And this bill before you is the very best vehicle in the country to bring ‘Roe’ crashing to the ground."
Porter also told the House Federal and State Affairs Committee that Kansas should act quickly before the retirements of U.S. Supreme Court justices Antonin Scalia, who has built a conservative record, and Anthony Kennedy, who has been the swing vote on social issues.
“This bill must reach them before an administration hostile to life has an opportunity to replace them,” Porter said. “After 40 years and 55 million dead babies, if this is not the time, there is never a time.”
But opponents of House Bill 2324 argued that the bill was unconstitutional and would cost a lot to defend in court.
“The bill would multiply the over $700,000 in legal expenses Kansas taxpayers have already spent defending unconstitutional abortion restrictions over the past two years,” said Elise Higgins, lobbyist and state co-coordinator for Kansas NOW. “Using the state’s resources to pick a fight with the Supreme Court is a waste of constituents’ money."
Opponents called the bill “dangerous” and said that it could increase instances of unsafe, illegal abortions. Sometimes a fetal heartbeat is detectable by six weeks of pregnancy.
They also said the proposal does not contain exceptions for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest. “Ultimately, women are moral actors equipped to make their own decisions about pregnancy,” Higgins concluded. “The Legislature has no place in this private decision-making.”
Committee Chairman Rep. Arlen Siegfreid, R-Olathe, said that members of the committee would vote on the bill. However, because the bill has been introduced near the end of the 2013 session, he did not think there was enough time to move it through the House and Senate.
Later on Tuesday, North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple signed a similar piece of legislation. The law would take effect Aug. 1, making it the state with the most restrictive abortion rights.