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Kansas Lawmakers Send Governor Sweeping Abortion Bill Declaring Life Begins 'at Fertilization'

Kansas Lawmakers Send Governor Sweeping Abortion Bill Declaring Life Begins 'at Fertilization'

April 8, 2013 — Kansas lawmakers late Friday granted final passage to sweeping antiabortion legislation (HB 2253) that would ban certain abortions, penalize entities associated with abortion providers and define life as beginning "at fertilization," The Hill's "Blog Briefing Room" reports. Gov. Sam Brownback (R) is expected to sign the bill, which would take effect July 1 (Jaffe, "Blog Briefing Room," The Hill, 4/6).

The House voted 90-30 to approve a reconciled version of the measure, just a few hours after the Senate backed it on a 28-10 vote (Hanna, AP/Wichita Eagle, 4/6). The bill states that life begins "at fertilization" and that "unborn children have interests ... that should be protected." The language is similar to "personhood" measures in other states, which aim to outlaw abortion (Hanna, AP/Salt Lake Tribune, 4/7).

The Kansas bill also would ban abortions sought based on the sex of the fetus and require physicians to tell women that abortion carries certain risks, including the inaccurate claim that it raises a woman's chance of developing breast cancer.

In addition, the bill would prohibit tax deductions for abortion and strengthen a law barring medical residents at the state's medical school from participating in abortion care on state time. The measure also would prevent groups that offer abortions from providing sex education or sex ed materials for public schools (Women's Health Policy Report, 4/3).

Women's Advocates Criticize Measure

If signed into law, Kansas would become the eighth state -- behind Arkansas, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, North Dakota and Ohio -- to declare that life begins at conception, according to Elizabeth Nash, state issues manager at the Guttmacher Institute. Although the measure would not supersede Kansas law banning most abortions after 22 weeks of pregnancy, the language could be used to implement strict abortion restrictions in the future.

Nash said, "It's a statement of intent," adding, "Should the U.S. Supreme Court overturn Roe v. Wade or should the court come to some different conclusion, the state legislature would be ready, willing and able to ban abortions."

Elise Higgins, Kansas coordinator for the National Organization for Women, criticized other provisions of the bill. She said that removing tax deductions would amount to tax increases for providers, women and their families. Even abortions to save a woman's life would not be considered a deductible cost under the bill, she added.

Further, Higgins called the bill's requirement that women be told of a possible link between abortion and a later risk of breast cancer an "obvious intrusion into the doctor-patient relationship by making them get this inaccurate information" (Murphy, Reuters, 4/6).