Kansas lawmakers this week become the first in the country to pass a ban a medical procedure used for second trimester abortions and the management of miscarriage. The radical legislation is part of a coordinated effort by anti-choice activists in states across the country.
SB 95 would outlaw dilation and evacuation (D and E) procedures used during many second-trimester abortions and to treat miscarriages. The bill is model legislation drafted by the anti-choice National Right to Life Committee (NRLC).
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, many controlled by Republicans. The NRLC strategy is to pack the bills with graphic, medically inaccurate language describing the D and E procedure.
“We’ve never seen this language before,” Elizabeth Nash, senior state issues associate for the Guttmacher Institute, told the Kansas City Star. “It’s not medical language, so it’s a little bit difficult to figure out what the language would do.”
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An amendment was proposed that allows physicians to use the procedure prior to 24 weeks of gestation if the pregnant woman’s membrane ruptures. Rep. Barbara Bollier (R-Mission Hills), who offered the amendment, said that if a pregnant woman’s membrane ruptured, it could expose her to serious infection.
“When the water breaks the clock starts ticking, because infection can set in,” Bollier said, reported the Topeka Capital-Journal. “A doctor’s goal is always to do what is safest. In this very, very tragic circumstance, the safest thing may be to do this procedure.”
The amendment was defeated.
During the floor debate, opponents of the legislation criticized Republicans who champion limited government but continue to push laws that intervene in private medical decisions.
“I know a lot of you here don’t like the government very much, but you are the government,” Rep. Boog Highberger (D-Lawrence) said, reported the Associated Press. “If you vote to pass the bill, it will be you who will cause the overreaching, taking away people’s liberty.”
One of the legislation’s supporters compared abortion to the holocaust.
Rep. Mike Kieger (R-Olathe) made his points by referencing medical experiments in World War II by Nazi doctor Josef Mengele, reported the Topeka Capital-Journal. “This procedure we discuss today is the ultimate evil. You’re literally ripping apart a live human being,” said Kieger, whose professional background is in residential and commercial property management as CEO of PRM Incorporated.
Organizations like the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) have repeatedly criticized lawmakers who compare abortion to the holocaust.
There are bills to ban the D and E procedure under consideration in Oklahoma, Missouri, and South Carolina, where Republicans dominate state legislatures. Legislative action has yet to been taken on the bills pending in Missouri and South Carolina.
The Oklahoma Senate Committee on Health and Human Services on Monday voted 7-1 to approve HB 1721, sponsored by Rep. Pam Peterson (R-Tulsa). The legislation is nearly identical to the Kansas bill.
An abortion using what is known as suction aspiration can be performed up to 14 weeks’ gestation, but after 14 weeks a D and E is the safest means of performing 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.
There were 7,479 abortions performed in the state in 2013, 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.
Laura McQuade, president of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Kansas and Mid-Missouri, said in a statement that the bill would place an undue burden on women because it would prevent them from having access to the safest kind of abortions.
“This legislation could force physicians to provide substandard care to their patients,” McQuade said. The bill “puts women in harm’s way by denying doctors the ability to provide the safest care available for their patients.”
Trust Women, a reproductive rights organization that operates the South Wind Women’s Center reproductive healthcare clinic in Wichita, said it will challenge the law in court, reports the Associated Press.
A spokesperson for Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri told the Associated Press that the group is consulting with lawyers about possible litigation.
The NRLC litigation strategy relies heavily on Gonzales v. Carhart, the 2007 U.S. Supreme Court decision that upheld the federal ban on so-called “partial birth abortions.” However, in that decision the court said that it was not banning all methods of second-trimester abortions, including D and E procedures.
The state of Kansas has spent more than $1.2 million in recent years defending legislation passed by lawmakers restricting reproductive rights. The state could spend an estimated $50,000 in 2015, and up to $200,000 in 2016 in 2017 defending the legislation, reported the Topeka Capital-Journal.
SB 95 now goes to Gov. Sam Brownback (R) who has already said he would sign the bill.
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.
“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 the governor’s desk.
SB 95 will likely be the 14th anti-choice bill Brownback has signed.