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Kansas Abortion Bill: Lawmakers Pass Sweeping Measure

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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.

Following more than two hours of emotional debate, the Republican-controlled Kansas House of Representatives passed a sweeping 69-page anti-abortion bill.

The passage sets the stage for Kansas to potentially enact one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the United States, coming a year after the state passed measures severely limiting the types of buildings that could house abortion clinics. The bill now heads to the state Senate for consideration. Gov. Sam Brownback (R) told HuffPost in February that he would sign the bill, which he said he had not read.

The bill contains provisions to prohibit tax deductions for abortion insurance coverage and abortion services; to provide for a sales tax on abortion; to establish a personhood stance for when life begins; to limit late-term abortions; to prohibit state employees from performing abortions during the workday; and to mandate that doctors tell women that abortion cause breast cancer along with other state-approved health issues.

The bill also allows doctors to withhold medical information from a woman if it might lead her to have an abortion. It prevents medical professionals from facing a medical malpractice suit in the event that withholding the information adversely affects the health of the mother or child. A wrongful death suit could be filed in the event of the mother's death.

Opponents of the bill were out in force, attempting to defeat or change it.

"We have a body that says they want small government. Why the heck are you so insistent that you know better then women about their health care," Rep. Annie Kuether (D-Topeka) said. "Where are the jobs that we promised to create? We have all this time to debate bills that discriminate against some of the people and tell women that they will be ruled by men."

Rep. Barbara Bollier (R-Mission Hills), a retired physician, broke from her party to help lead the charge against the bill. Bollier proposed several amendments to the bill which were defeated. Among them, she proposed to sever 40 pages of tax code changes relating to abortion from the bill and send them to the taxation committee for discussion. Another Bollier amendment would have sent the bill to the health committee; she noted that the bill had not been reviewed from a health perspective. The bill was considered by the House Federal and State Affairs Committee, which handles abortion, tobacco, strip club, gambling and alcohol policy.

Bollier's amendment which would have mandated women receive a list of pregnancy health concerns along with abortion health concerns, also was defeated. Rep. Lance Kinzer (R-Olathe), the bill's author, said the amendment was not needed since other provisions of Kansas law address the issue.

"I cannot support this bill because of these issues related to health care," Bollier said. "We are not providing women with all of the information related to pregnancy. There are serious questions about the tax code that have not been addressed. I realize this body will pass this bill. I find that disappointing for the women of Kansas."

Opponents also sought to amend the bill and allow abortion training for OB-GYN residents at the University of Kansas Medical Center to continue indefinitely. A provision had been added to extend the training for only one year after KU officials expressed concern that the original language could have placed the program's accreditation in jeopardy. The House defeated the opponents' proposed amendment after an impassioned speech by Kinzer.

"We should not pay residents to kill babies," Kinzer said to applause from Republicans. "No taxpayer dollars to pay residents to kill babies. This is training for elective abortion. It is frankly disgusting for me to allow that to go on for another year."

Rep. Sean Gatewood (D-Topeka) told his colleagues that the bill could place funding for new research by the National Cancer Institute in jeopardy. He said that NCI has come out against the theory that abortion causes breast cancer, which lawmakers want to affirm.

"There are conflicting scientific studies on that," Rep. John Rubin (R-Shawnee) said earlier in the debate over the breast cancer connection.

Rep. Gail Finney (D-Wichita) questioned Rubin, who was leading the floor debate on the bill, over the provisions that would only allow abortions after 20 weeks in the event a woman's life is in danger. Finney asked if that includes women who are raped or are facing emotional harm. Rubin said that it would if it was a "medical emergency."

Finney also questioned Rubin on the provision of the bill that would prohibit abortion service providers from authoring sex education materials for public schools in the state, asking if there were other groups besides Planned Parenthood that offered the service.

"I'm sure there are," Rubin said in response. "I can't tick them off -- education companies that can offer the curriculum. I'm sure there are, I can't name them."

Finney said she is worried for the state. "I fear the state of Kansas will get to the point of severe consequences," she said. "That we will get back to back alley abortions or the coat hanger days."

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Morning CheckUp: May 3, 2012