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Kan. Gov. Signs First-of-Its-Kind Law Banning Certain Abortions

Kan. Gov. Signs First-of-Its-Kind Law Banning Certain Abortions

April 8, 2015 — Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback (R) on Tuesday signed a bill (SB 95) into law that will ban physicians from performing a certain abortion procedure, the Huffington Post reports.

The state is the first in the nation to adopt such a ban, which is scheduled to take effect July 1 (Lachman, Huffington Post, 4/7). According to the New York Times, the Kansas law does not include medical terminology and experts say its practical effect is unknown (Eckholm/Robles, New York Times, 4/7).

Law Details

Abortion-rights opponents say the law, which was drafted by the National Right to Life Committee, will ban a method of abortion called dilation and extraction. According to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, the method accounted for 578 of the roughly 7,500 abortions performed in the state in 2013 (Women's Health Policy Report, 3/26). Physicians use the method in about 8% to 9% of abortions across the U.S., Reuters reports (Herskovitz, Reuters, 4/7).

The law will permit exceptions if continuing the pregnancy would result in the death or irreversible physical impairment of a major bodily function (Women's Health Policy Report, 3/26). The law does not include exceptions for cases of incest or rape (New York Times, 4/7). It does also not include an exception if a woman is experiencing mental health issues (Hanna, AP/ABC News, 4/7).

Physicians who violate the law will face misdemeanor charges for a first offense and felony charges for violations thereafter (Women's Health Policy Report, 3/26).

Abortion-Rights Supporters, Opponents React

Kathleen Morell, a fellow at Physicians for Reproductive Health and an ob-gyn, said alternatives to the dilation and extraction procedure in the second trimester can increase women's health risks.

Julie Burkhart -- CEO of Trust Women Foundation and of the South Wind Women's Center in Witchita, Kan. -- said her group plans to take legal action against the law, which her group calls "the 'physician intimidation and criminalization act'" (New York Times, 4/7). Burkhart said the "dangerous" law "dictates to qualified physicians how they can practice medicine and treat their patients."

According to AP/ABC News, Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri is also considering filing a lawsuit against the measure (AP/ABC News, 4/7). Laura McQuade, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Kansas and Mid-Missouri, said, "Kansas is now not only the sole state with this atrocious law; it also now has more restrictions on abortion than any state in the U.S."

Separately, National Right to Life Committee President Carol Tobias said her group hopes the law will be the first of "many state laws banning" the abortion procedure (New York Times, 4/7). According to Reuters, such measures have been proposed this year in Missouri (HB 920), Oklahoma (HB 1721) and South Carolina (S 531) (Reuters, 4/7).