TOPEKA (KSNT)- Kansas lawmakers are debating several bills making changes to abortion laws in the state, as the state Supreme Court weighs challenges to abortion restrictions.
The Kansas Senate will be debating a bill requiring care for infants ‘born alive’ after a failed abortion.
The proposal, House Bill 2313, passed the Kansas House 88-34 last week.
The bill establishes legal protections for infants that are ‘born alive’ after an attempted abortion, requiring doctors to provide the same level of care as any newborn.
“This is not an abortion bill…this bill only covers the messy aftermath of abortion,” said Rep. Ron Bryce, R-Coffeyville, who carried the bill in the House. “That’s where the state has the duty and the right to take care of the innocent.”
The bill sparked the first abortion debate in the Kansas Legislature, since voters decided to uphold abortion rights in a historic Primary vote last year.
After the majority of Kansas voters voted to uphold abortion rights last August, some party members believe that the Legislature should stay out of the patient’s room.
“Kansas spoke loud and clear on how Kansans would like to keep their healthcare decisions with a patient and their provider,” said Rep. Melissa Oropeza, D-Kansas City, during debates in the House.
The Senate is set to debate the bill Tuesday, along with Senate Bill 297, which revises the definition of “abortion” to clarify procedures that are excluded from such definition.
According to the supplementary note, Senate Bill 297 would add to the definition of abortion that the use or prescription of any instrument, medicine, drug, or any other means to terminate the pregnancy of a woman would not mean an “abortion” when done with the intent to:
- Preserve the life or health of the unborn child;
- Increase the probability of a live birth;
- Remove a dead unborn child who died as a result of natural causes in utero, accidental trauma, or a criminal assault on the pregnant woman or the unborn child; or
- Remove an ectopic pregnancy.
The bill would affirmatively state that “abortion” would not include the prescription, dispensing, administration, sale, or use of any method of contraception.
During a hearing last week, proponents of the measure said that the bill would ensure women receive the health care needed when pregnant.
The Kansas House is set to debate House Bill 2439, which would require notification to patients that the effects of a medication abortion may be reversible. According to the fiscal note, the state health department (KDHE) indicates its enactment would result in additional expenditures of $21,250 in FY 2023 and $85,000 in FY 2024, all from the State General Fund.. The agency would be required to update and print Woman’s Right-to-Know materials and no funds are currently allocated for this purpose. The agency estimates $85,000 for salaries and wages, as well as administrative and printing costs.
This comes as the Kansas Supreme Court is considering several challenges to abortion restrictions. Kansas Attorney General Kris Kobach has asked the court to reconsider a 2019 decision that blocks several abortion restrictions.
On Monday, State Supreme Court justices heard oral arguments from state Solicitor General Anthony Powell and representatives of Center for Reproductive Rights, a global advocacy group for abortion rights.
One of the restrictions includes a ban on dilation and evacuation, or the D & E procedure. This abortion procedure is performed during the second trimester of pregnancy. Another restriction includes licensure and regulation requirements for abortion providers.
The state appealed cases to the Kansas Supreme Court, after lower courts ruled the laws violate the state constitution and blocked them. The state Supreme Court is now considering whether to uphold the lower courts’ decisions to strike down the restrictions.
“Our position is that human right has dignity and has value and what we don’t do to death row inmates and what we don’t do to pets, we shouldn’t do to unborn babies,” Powell told Kansas Capitol Bureau in an interview Monday. “Some of the justices wanted to say… somehow if a baby doesn’t suffer pain then there’s not a dignity of human life issue at stake. We don’t agree with that.”
Powell argued that Kansans are in favor of “reasonable restrictions” on abortion.
However, Alice Wang, a representative for Center for Reproductive Rights, said Kansans have already decided where they stand on the issue.
“In August 2022, the Legislature put that question of whether to rescind constitutional protection for the right to abortion directly to the people and Kansans resoundingly rejected that effort to take away their constitutional rights,” Wang said. “Disturbing this court’s precedent based on nothing more than the state’s disagreement with the prior decision, where the state is merely re-hashing all of the arguments that the court rejected before, would undermine confidence in the rule of law.”
State Supreme Court justices said Monday that they will conference the case until they reach a final agreement.