Kansas state senators approved a bill Friday that is part of coordinated effort to ban a medical procedure used for second trimester abortions and the management of miscarriage.
SB 95, model legislation drafted by the anti-choice National Right to Life Committee (NRLC), was passed by the state senate in a 31-9 vote. Of the nine votes against the bill, eight were Democrats, with Sen. Vicki Schmidt (R-Topeka) being the lone Republican vote against the bill.
A companion bill, HB 2187, is also pending in the state house.
The bill bans dilation and evacuation (D and E) procedures used during many second-trimester abortions and miscarriages. The bill redefines the D and E procedure as “dismemberment” abortion, language that is key to NRLC’s strategy, as anti-choice advocates push similar bills in other state legislatures.
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An abortion using suction aspiration can be performed up to 14 weeks’ gestation, but after 14 weeks the D and E procedure must be used to perform an abortion, according to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. The Kansas bill would effectively ban abortion as early as 14 weeks post-fertilization.
In 2013, there were 7,479 abortions performed in the state, with 89 percent performed before 12 weeks’ gestation, according to a Kansas Department of Health report.
Among the 807 abortions that took place after 12 weeks, 584 were performed using D and E.
The D and E procedure is described in detail in a brochure promoting the legislation published by Kansans for Life, the state’s most influential anti-choice organization and an NRLC affiliate. The brochure also promotes the scientifically inaccurate notion of “fetal pain.”
NRLC model legislation is also pending in both Oklahoma and Missouri. A similar bill in South Dakota, which is not NRLC model legislation but would have had the same effect, was gutted last week in the state house after the bill’s author made controversial statements comparing Planned Parenthood to the terrorist organization ISIS.
Abortion rights advocates argue that lawmakers should not rule out a procedure if a doctor believes it’s a woman’s best medical option.
“If even one woman is denied access to a safe health care procedure by a qualified physician, that’s one too many,” Julie Burkhart, CEO and founder of the Trust Women abortion rights group and the South Wind Women’s Center, said in a statement.
Republican Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback has already said he would sign the bill if passed by the legislature. Brownback called for an end to abortion in the state while speaking at a rally in front of the state capitol building during the anti-choice March for Life rally in January. The rally, sponsored by Kansans for Life, was being held at the same time as others around the country to mark the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision.
“Let us see an end to the killing of children in Kansas, the most pro-life state in America—Kansas,” Brownback said, according to an Associated Press report.
Brownback has been a vehement opponent of reproductive rights since he took office in 2011, signing 13 bills to limit access to abortion care during his tenure; even more bills to restrict reproductive rights were introduced by state lawmakers during that time but never made it to his desk.
Brownback, by backing SB 95, has now endorsed a 14th anti-choice bill. “That bill should pass,” Brownback declared. “I’ll sign it.”
Laura McQuade, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Kansas and Mid-Missouri, says lawmakers from the state house in Topeka to the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., should stop interfering with women’s reproductive health care.
“Lawmakers across the country and especially in Kansas and Missouri have been working tirelessly to pass laws that eliminate access to safe and legal abortion, and deny women their constitutional rights to make their own private medical decisions,” McQuade told the Topeka Capital-Journal.
The legislation will now move to the Kansas house, where the 97-28 Republican majority is expected to approve the bill.