Kan. Abortion Opponents Seek Even More Restrictions

July 18, 2011 — After winning passage of several bills this legislative session, Kansas antiabortion-rights groups are planning to push for more measures in the fall to restrict abortion access, the AP/Wichita Eagle reports.

Kansas lawmakers this year passed measures that impose new licensing requirements for abortion clinics, ban abortion after 21 weeks, require minors to obtain notarized written consent from both parents or a legal guardian, restrict private insurance coverage of abortion and redirect federal family planning funds from Planned Parenthood to other organizations.

Mark Gietzen, chair of the Kansas Coalition for Life, is circulating a petition asking Gov. Sam Brownback (R) to convene a special session this fall to consider a "heartbeat" bill that would ban abortion as soon as a fetal heartbeat could be detected, as early as six weeks of pregnancy. Meanwhile, a separate group plans to introduce a bill that would call for a state constitutional amendment specifying that personhood begins at fertilization.

According to the AP/Wichita Eagle, these measures would spark challenges to Roe v. Wade, the 1973 the Supreme Court ruling that determined a woman has a right to choose abortion care until fetal viability and after that states may act to restrict abortion access for procedures not necessary to protect the life or health of the pregnant woman. Both proposals being contemplated in Kansas have been considered by other states but not passed into law.

Julie Burkhart, founder and director of Trust Women, said the measures are "the same as all of the other anti-reproductive rights legislation," adding that they are "about denying access to pregnant women who are in need of reproductive health care. It's a further step toward the re-criminalization of abortion services for women."

Some members of the antiabortion-rights movement think the heartbeat bill and the personhood amendment might be going too far. Mary Kay Culp, executive director of Kansans for Life, said, "We want change to be lasting change, not try to throw the Hail Mary passes." She added, "Just because you have a governor that might sign it should it pass both bodies, there's a lots to be considered." She asked, "It's going to be sued, so where are you going? You end up in the U.S. Supreme Court, where you're still short a vote" (AP/Wichita Eagle, 7/17).