Kansas Legislators Expected to Introduce Bill That Would Effectively Ban Abortion at 14 Weeks

The legislation targets a procedure called dilation and evacuation (D and E), which is often used during second-trimester abortions. Depending on the language of the bill, it could ban all surgical abortions in the state past 14 weeks' gestation, or even earlier.

South Carolina state Sen. Lee Bright, an ardent anti-choice Republican, filibustered a bill Thursday to ban abortion 20 weeks post-fertilization. The measure, he said, is too lenient because it included exceptions for rape, incest, and fetal anomaly. Shutterstock

Kansas legislators are expected to introduce a bill that would outlaw a common medical procedure, effectively banning abortion in the state past 14 weeks’ gestation, or even earlier.

Kansas Right to Life announced its support for the legislation during a press conference Wednesday, the Kansas City Star reports.

The bill would prohibit doctors from using clamps, forceps, scissors, or similar medical implements to dismember a fetus during an abortion procedure. The legislation targets a procedure called dilation and evacuation (D and E), which is often used during second-trimester abortions. Depending on the language of the bill, it could ban all surgical abortions in the state past 14 weeks’ gestation, or ban abortions even earlier in pregnancy.

The legislation was drafted by the National Right to Life Committee and is reportedly being sponsored by state Sen. Garrett Love (R-Montezuma), but it has yet to be introduced in the state legislature.

Love was elected to the state house in 2010 after defeating a 12-term incumbent in the Republican primary. Before he served a day in the house, he was selected by the Republican caucus to serve the remainder of state Sen. Tim Huelskamp’s term, who had resigned to serve in the U.S. Congress.

Love has sponsored and supported several other anti-choice bills in the past. Love in 2011 spoke in favor of a bill to ban abortion after 20 weeks’ gestation, and cited medically inaccurate claims of fetal pain as justification for the ban. Republican Gov. Sam Brownback later signed the bill into law.

Kathy Ostrowski, legislative director at Kansans for Life, claimed during a recent press call that the D and E procedure is used in about 8 percent of the approximately 7,500 abortions performed in Kansas each year. Doctors, she added, could continue to use other procedures to perform surgical abortions, including suction aspiration.

However, according to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, an abortion using suction aspiration can be performed up to 14 weeks’ gestation, but after 14 weeks an abortion must be performed using the D and E procedure.

Pro-choice advocates have noted that the legislation is yet another attempt by lawmakers to limit reproductive rights, in a state where abortion is already highly restricted.

“Kansas women are smart enough to make their own decisions about their families and lives,” said Laura McQuade, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri, in a statement.

McQuade said that the legislation is a reflection of how out of touch state lawmakers are with the health-care needs of women, and comes despite Kansas’ current status as the state with the most abortion restrictions in the country.

“[Women] don’t need more legislation intended to judge, coerce and restrict their decisions. Planned Parenthood will expose this legislation for what it is: an intrusive, insulting measure that does nothing to improve the quality of women’s lives or health care,” said McQuade.

Julie Burkhart, founder and CEO of Trust Women and South Wind Women’s Center, told the Topeka Capital-Journal that the expected bill is an inflammatory attempt to potentially ban most second-trimester abortion procedures in Kansas.

“This is a radically unconstitutional attempt to ban abortion in the state of Kansas. Such a ban would make it much more difficult for women from Kansas, Oklahoma, Missouri and Texas to receive necessary health care,” said Burkhart.

A similar bill was introduced in the South Dakota legislature in 2014. That bill, HB 1241, would have made it illegal to perform an abortion if a “living” fetus is “dismembered” during an abortion. Reproductive health experts and abortion providers told Rewire that that bill’s language would have effectively banned abortions past seven weeks’ gestation in the state.

State Sen. Mary Pilcher-Cook (R-Shawnee), chair of the Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee, told the Capital-Journal that she intends to conduct hearings on the bill.