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Kansas Abortion Bill To Ban Procedure By State Workers Passes House

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Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback has said that he will sign a sweeping 69-page anti-abortion bill.
Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback has said that he will sign a sweeping 69-page anti-abortion bill.

The day after a Kansas legislative committee adopted an amendment to protect accreditation of the OBGYN residency program at the University of Kansas Medical Center, the full state House adopted an amendment which could put the program back in jeopardy.

The full House of Representatives adopted an amendment to the state budget Friday evening that would prohibit state money from being used on abortions and would ban state workers from performing abortions during the workday. Opponents say the amendment will jeopardize the accreditation of KU's OBGYN residency program, where residents receive training to provide abortions.

On Thursday, a House committee meanwhile passed an amendment to the state's sweeping anti-abortion bill meant to allow for the abortion training to continue at KU. The Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education requires OBGYN programs to provide abortion training.

"Kansas citizens do not want (abortions)," state Rep. Joe Patton (R-Topeka) told HuffPost about why he sponsored the amendment.

Patton said that he does not know if the ban would actually threaten the accreditation of the residency program, noting that KU officials have declined two invitations to testify before the House Federal and State Affairs Committee, which is considering the anti-abortion bill.

In 1998, Kansas lawmakers prohibited abortions from being performed on state property. A KU Medical Center spokeswoman told HuffPost earlier this month that no abortions are performed at KU, which is considered state property. Under state law, the medical center's doctors and nurses are employed by private foundations, but the residents are considered state employees. Patton said he believes the medical center has been skirting state law to provide abortion services.

"The public policy should be that a state agency should not be involved in this practice. Since 1998, they have thumbed their noses at public policy in Kansas," he said Saturday morning.

Rep. Sean Gatewood (D-Topeka), who is leading opposition to the anti-abortion bill, said that legislators have been meeting with KU officials privately to craft a procedure to protect the residency program. He said the amendment adopted by the committee Thursday would exempt KU residents from the worker ban and allow the training to continue. He said the amendment did include a one-year sunset clause, which would give legislators the opportunity to review the residency program annually. The amendment and full bill were passed by the committee on Thursday.

"I don't get it; it seems reckless to me," Gatewood told HuffPost about the budget amendment.

The anti-abortion bill includes a provision that permits doctors to withhold from a mother any information that could possibly cause her to seek an abortion; it also prevents a medical malpractice suit from being filed should the woman and child subsequently have health issues, but does allow a wrongful death suit to be filed in the event of the mother's death. The bill also includes the end of a series of tax deductions relating to abortion. Opponents have said that bill will also impose a sales tax on abortions in the state, including those sought by rape victims. The committee on Thursday removed language that required a woman to listen to the fetal heartbeat, but have kept language that requires doctors to tell women that abortion causes breast cancer.

Earlier this week, the New Hampshire House of Representatives also adopted a bill that would instruct doctors to tell women that abortion causes breast cancer. The theory that abortion causes breast cancer has been rebuked by the World Health Organization, the American Cancer Society, the National Cancer Institute, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, who have all said the research is faulty.

Gatewood said state Senate leaders have signaled they will likely not consider the anti-abortion bill, saying that it is too late in the legislative session to take up such a complex bill. The House had used a parliamentary maneuver when adopting the bill in committee to attempt to expedite Senate consideration. Gov. Sam Brownback (R) has told HuffPost that he will sign the bill.

The Kansas Senate is controlled by a more moderate Republican faction, which has been at odds with the more conservative governor and House. Patton is currently challenging moderate Republican Sen. Vicki Schmidt in the August primary.

The full budget is likely to be adopted by the House on Monday, where legislative rules would prohibit an attempt to remove the abortion language, according to Gatewood. The budget is subject to legislative negotiations before being sent to Brownback. It has not been determined if the abortion amendment will remain in the final bill.

Patton said he remains committed to seeing the adoption of the abortion ban, saying that if the medical center leaders will not speak publicly on the bill, they are trying to promote abortion.

"This should not be discussed in the closet, but out in the open," Patton said.

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