April 7, 2014 — The Kansas Legislature has approved a bill (SB 448) that would make technical changes to existing antiabortion-rights laws, avoiding a more contentious debate this year over a bill (HB 2324) that would ban most abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detectable, the AP/Kansas City Star reports. The approved bill now goes to Gov. Sam Brownback (R), a staunch abortion-rights opponent.
The passage of the bill essentially "ends this year's debate on abortion" amid a split among the Legislature's Republican majority over the issue, according to the AP/Star (Hanna, AP/Kansas City Star, 4/5).
Some GOP lawmakers blocked debate on the fetal heartbeat bill in order to aid the passage of SB 448. According to the AP/Topeka Capital-Journal, although the fetal heartbeat measure has support in the Legislature, Kansans for Life -- an influential antiabortion-rights group -- worried that enacting such a law could backfire on abortion-rights opponents by leading to court rulings that uphold abortion rights (Hanna, AP/Topeka Capital-Journal, 4/3).
The approved bill would make technical changes such as revising a requirement that abortion providers' websites link to a state site about pregnancy and fetal development. Under the revision, providers' websites would no longer have to say that the state's information is accurate and objective. In addition, the measure would revise certain regulations on medical emergencies under which abortion restrictions are waived (AP/Kansas City Star, 4/5).
According to the AP/Capital-Journal, Planned Parenthood is neutral on SB 448. Planned Parenthood lobbyist Elise Higgins noted that antiabortion-rights legislators chose between making technical fixes to address "an overreach" in existing regulations and "radical" measures such as the fetal heartbeat bill, adding, "It's an indication of how far the anti-women's health movement in Kansas has progressed" (AP/Topeka Capital-Journal, 4/3).