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Kan. Gov. Brownback Signs Sweeping Bill With Several Abortion Restrictions

Kan. Gov. Brownback Signs Sweeping Bill With Several Abortion Restrictions

April 22, 2013 —Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback (R) on Friday approved a far-reaching antiabortion-rights bill (HB 2253) that restricts access to the procedure, penalizes entities associated with abortion providers and declares that life begins "at fertilization," the AP/Topeka Capital-Journal reports.

Brownback -- an abortion-rights opponent who urged lawmakers to create "a culture of life" when he took office in 2011 -- said just before signing the measure, "With this, we continue to build this culture of life in our state."

Details of Legislation

The bill, which cleared the Legislature earlier this month, includes provisions barring abortion providers from providing sex education or sex ed materials for public schools. The measure also bans abortions based on the sex of the fetus and mandates that physicians tell women seeking abortions that the procedure carries certain risks, including the medically inaccurate claim that an abortion raises a woman's risk of breast cancer.

Although many of the bill's provisions are set to take effect in July, language barring tax breaks related to abortion will be effective in 2014. The bill requires that abortion provides pay a state sales tax on items they buy, even though other health care providers receive an exemption for such purchases. In addition, the measure prohibits abortion-related costs from being considered deductible medical expenses on individuals' income taxes.

Declaration on Beginning of Life

Abortion-rights opponents said the bill's declaration that life begins at fertilization is a statement of principle and is not intended to ban abortions. They noted that the measure specifically states that any rights suggested by the bill are limited by Supreme Court decisions (Hanna, AP/Topeka Capital-Journal, 4/19).

The law makes Kansas the eighth state to define life as beginning at fertilization, according to Elizabeth Nash, state issues manager at the Guttmacher Institute. Such language would help states move quickly to ban abortions if the Supreme Court revisits the issue (Murphy, Reuters, 4/19).

Planned Parenthood's Response

Peter Brownlie, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri, called the new law "extreme," adding, "Politicians should not be involved in a woman's personal medical decisions about her pregnancy." He said, "Let's let real physicians practice medicine -- not the 'pretend doctors' in the Statehouse" (AP/Topeka Capital-Journal, 4/19).