Sweeping Kan. Antiabortion Bill Heading to Gov. Brownback; Wichita Clinic Opening for First Time Since Tiller's Death

April 3, 2013 — The Kansas Senate on Tuesday voted 29-11 to pass a far-reaching antiabortion-rights bill (HB 2253) that restricts access to abortion care and penalizes entities associated with abortion providers, the AP/Chicago Sun-Times reports. The House this week is expected to give the measure final approval and send it to Gov. Sam Brownback (R), an abortion-rights opponent who has signed many measures restricting the procedure since taking office in 2011.

The bill states that life begins "at fertilization" and that "unborn children" have interests "that should be protected" (Hanna, AP/Chicago Sun-Times, 4/2). The measure also would mandate that physicians tell women seeking abortions that the procedure carries certain risks, including the inaccurate claim that an abortion 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, 3/20).

Both chambers rejected proposals that would have added exceptions in the state's abortion restrictions for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest. The Senate also refused to add language that would have strengthened existing legal protections for access to contraception (AP/Chicago Sun-Times, 4/2).

Tiller's Former Clinic To Open This Week

In other Kansas news, Julie Burkhart -- a former colleague of slain abortion provider George Tiller -- said on Monday that a new women's health center is opening this week at the site of Tiller's former Wichita, Kan., clinic, the Wichita Eagle reports. The South Wind Women's Center is expected to offer abortions up to 14 weeks of pregnancy, as well as other women's health services (Gruver, Wichita Eagle, 4/2).

Wichita has not had an abortion provider since Tiller was shot to death by an antiabortion-rights activist in 2009. Burkhart has led the Trust Women Foundation in efforts to re-establish a clinic after she became sole owner of the building last fall. Currently, the nearest abortion provider in the state is about 200 miles away (Women's Health Policy Report, 2/14).

Vicki Saporta -- president and CEO of the National Abortion Federation -- said the clinic's opening "sends a message to anti-abortion extremists that violence doesn't work, and it fills a need in the community for women who need to access quality abortion care so those women won't have to be traveling to Kansas City or other places" (Thomas, Kansas City Star, 4/3).

The clinic has begun accepting appointments, although Burkhart did not provide specific details on when it would open (Wichita Eagle, 4/2).