TOPEKA, Kansas (AP) – Kansas legislators Wednesday approved a proposed ban on a common second-trimester procedure described by abortion opponents as dismembering a fetus, making their state the first to adopt a national group’s model policy.
The state House voted 98-26 to outlaw the dilation and evacuation procedure, which is used in about 8 percent of all abortions in Kansas. The measure was drafted by the National Right to Life Committee.
The Senate approved the bill last month, so it goes next to Republican Gov. Sam Brownback, who promised publicly during an anti-abortion rally in January to sign it. Both chambers of the GOP-dominated Legislature have strong anti-abortion majorities, so the bill always stood a good chance of passing, but the House’s debate Wednesday showed that some lawmakers want to go further.
The bill redefines dilation and evacuation as “dismemberment abortion” and outlaws it except when necessary to save a woman’s life or prevent irreversible damage to her physical health. Doctors could not use forceps, clamps, scissors or similar instruments on a fetus to remove it from the womb in pieces.
“Abortion is evil, and the procedure we’re discussing today is the ultimate evil,” said Rep. Mike Kiegerl, an Olathe Republican.
Kansans for Life, the most influential anti-abortion group at the Statehouse, and the National Right to Life Committee pursue incremental restrictions each year because they fear sweeping attempts to limit abortion early in pregnancy would be challenged and overturned by the courts. Elsewhere, the Oklahoma House has approved a ban on the procedure and its Senate is expected to debate it next week. Similar bills have been introduced in Missouri and South Carolina.
Abortion-rights supporters said passing such a bill does nothing to prevent unwanted pregnancies. They also said the procedure is sometimes the safest one and that the state should not interfere with medical decisions.
“I know a lot of you here don’t like the government very much, but you are the government,” said Rep. Boog Highberger, a Lawrence Democrat. “If you vote to pass the bill, it will be you who will cause the overreaching, taking away people’s liberty.”
Kansas already bans most abortions at or after the 22nd week of pregnancy. But other legislators said Wednesday they want to ban abortion as soon as a fetal heartbeat can be detected. One anti-abortion group, the Kansas Coalition for Life, is pushing a separate bill to ban suction abortions, which account for more than half of pregnancies terminated in Kansas.
Republican Rep. Randy Garber, of Sabetha, said he’ll vote for the current bill, but asked, “Is God happy with where we’re at, or does God say life begins at conception and should be protected?”