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Kansas Abortion Bill: Governor Sam Brownback Likely To Sign Sweeping Legislation

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Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback campaigning for Rick Perry in Iowa.
Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback campaigning for Rick Perry in Iowa.

WASHINGTON -- Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback (R) indicated that he is likely to sign the state's sweeping anti-abortion bill, which includes a provision that would allow doctors to withhold information from patients.

Brownback, speaking to The Huffington Post Monday following the National Governors Association meeting, said that while he has not read the 69-page bill, he is likely to sign the proposal since he opposes abortion rights. Brownback, a former U.S. senator, has signed several anti-abortion bills since he took office last year.

"I am pro-life," Brownback said. "When I campaigned I said that if a pro-life bill got to my desk, I will sign it. I am not backing away from that."

The latest bill -- which is scheduled to be discussed by a legislative committee for a second time on Wednesday -- contains a number of provisions which would give the state one of the most sweeping anti-abortion laws in the nation. Among the provisions is one which would exempt doctors from malpractice suits if they withhold information -- in order to prevent an abortion -- that could have prevented a health problem for the mother or child. A wrongful death suit could be filed in the event of the death of the mother.

Other provisions include requiring women to hear the fetal heartbeat prior to an abortion, taking away tax credits for abortion providers and removing tax deductions for abortion-related insurance. The bill also requires that women be told that abortions would increase the risk of breast cancer, a controversial theory that the World Health Organization, the National Cancer Institute and gynecological groups in the United States and the United Kingdom have said is incorrect.

The bill has garnered opposition from legislative Democrats and at least one moderate Republican lawmaker.

Sarah Gillooly, the public affairs manager for Planned Parenthood of Kansas, told The Huffington Post earlier this month that the bill was "the largest and most sweeping overhaul we've seen to date."

Brownback declined discuss the specifics of the bill, reiterating that he has not studied the text.

The bill has several more steps before reaching Brownback's desk, including consideration in the conservative Republican-controlled House of Representatives, which is expected to approve the bill, and in the moderate Republican-dominated Senate, where bill opponents are hoping for defeat.

With the moderate state Senate Republicans facing August primary challenges from more conservative Republicans, Brownback said he is likely to stay out of the primaries, even though a more conservative Senate would probably be helpful to passing his agenda. Brownback and the conservative state House have seen multiple proposals defeated by moderate GOP senators.

"What I want to do is wait until after the primary and support the party's candidates," Brownback said.

Brownback said he does not know if a more conservative Senate would be helpful to his agenda, adding that he would need to review any change in Senate policy on an issue-by-issue basis. Among the issues he said he'll look at are taxes, education spending, judicial reform, economic development and pensions -- as well as maintaining his stance on abortion-related legislation.

Among the most divisive issues between Brownback and a coalition of moderate Republicans and the state's Democratic minority is the governor's proposal to rewrite the state's tax code. Brownback has been facing fire for his initiative, which includes eliminating a slew of deductions, such as those for charitable giving. Senate Republicans have formed their own study group to formulate a tax plan.

Brownback defended the plan, which he noted is a "flat tax" and said that he is expecting it to pass. He said that it is similar to the Simpson-Bowles proposal, and that he believes it is also similar to President Obama's corporate tax proposal. According to Brownback, his tax plan would help the state's business community.

"The very notion of a flat tax is it takes out exemptions and deductions," he said.

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