Kansas lawmakers are rushing to save the state's OBGYN medical residency program, which is threatened by the state's sweeping anti-abortion bill.
One provision in the 69-page bill prohibits state employees from performing abortions during their workday, which would only impact medical residents at the University of Kansas Medical Center, the only state employees currently performing abortions. The governing body for medical residency programs requires that OBGYN residents receive training in abortion. Apparent confusion among Republican state legislators has delayed consideration of an amendment to exempt KU residents from the bill.
"The medical center has to be able to train them in abortion for accreditation," state Rep. Sean Gatewood (D-Topeka) said.
The Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education requires medical schools to offer abortion training to OBGYN residents as part of the program. Residents can opt out of the training for moral and religious reasons.
The anti-abortion bill only includes KU Medical Center residents since they are the only hospital employees considered state workers. Gatewood said doctors and nurses at the hospital are considered employees of independent foundations.
The bill is currently pending before the House's Federal and State Affairs Committee, which already held discussions regarding the medical center. The center's lobbyists had conversations with legislators about the need to amend the legislation in order to save the residency program's accreditation. Gatewood and Kari Rinker, the state coordinator from the National Organization for Women, said that state Rep. TerriLois Gregory (R-Baldwin City) was expected to offer the KU amendment, but backed out at the last minute.
Gatewood said he raised the amendment, which state Rep. Steve Brunk (R-Wichita), the committee's chairman, said did not need to be offered at that time. Gatewood said Brunk said there was confusion among Republicans on whether the amendment was actually needed. Gatewood dropped his own amendment when Brunk said the committee would deal with the issue later.
Gregory has not publicly explained suddenly dropping the amendment, but Gatewood said there is a rumor floating around Kansas political circles. "If you don't train people in abortion, then you never have abortions, that is the rumor," he said.
Brunk and Gregory did not return calls for comment left at their Topeka offices.
Center spokeswoman C.J. Janovy declined to make the hospital's lobbyists available, but did release a statement saying that the hospital was working with legislators to fix the bill. She did stress that abortions are actually not performed at the medical center.
"Accreditation requirements for OBGYN residencies, however, require that residents gain experience with induced abortion and complications due to abortion, unless they have a religious or moral objection," Janovy's statement said. "Consequently, residents in Ob/Gyn acquire necessary experience in abortion procedures elsewhere in facilities that are not owned or operated by the state of Kansas."
The bill, which will come before the committee again this week, is the most sweeping anti-abortion bill seen in Kansas in years. It includes provisions that allow doctors to withhold medical information from women that could cause them to have an abortion and not be liable in a medical malpractice suit if the mother or the baby suffers a health impairment due to withheld information. A wrongful death suit could be filed in the event the mother dies. Other provisions include telling women that abortion causes breast cancer.
Gov. San Brownback (R) has told The Huffington Post that he'll sign the bill.
Gatewood, the bill's leading opponent in the House, said he is hopeful the KU amendment passes in committee, which he said could come down to who pushes the proposal.
"I would think it would, it depends on who carries it," he said.