Friday, March 8, 2013

Sweeping abortion bill approved by Kansas House committee

By SCOTT ROTHSCHILD, The Lawrence Journal-World

A bill that declares life begins at fertilization, removes tax credits for abortion procedures and decreases the ability for a woman to terminate a pregnancy was approved by a House committee on Thursday.

House Bill 2253 sailed out of the House Federal and State Affairs Committee on a voice vote with four Democrats asking to be recorded as opposed.

Much of Thursday's debate focused on a portion of the bill designed to prevent abortion providers from furnishing any course materials or information relating to human sexuality in classrooms.

But several committee members said the provision was written so broadly it would have prevented a parent who worked for an abortion provider from being able to volunteer in his or her child's class on a field trip or bring cupcakes for a classroom party.

State Rep. Emily Perry, D-Mission, provided an amendment to allow those volunteers in the classroom.

But state Rep. Allan Rothlisberg, R-Grandview Plaza, opposed it, saying, "If we're having people in our education system, I don't want them involved in any way, shape or form or manner in killing children, killing babies."

Perry's amendment, however, was adopted. She later abstained on voting for the entire bill, which now goes to the full House.

The 70-page bill touches on many aspects of abortion regulation in Kansas.

Abortion rights supporters have said the measure is so sweeping that it would trigger a complete ban on abortion if the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the Roe v. Wade decision that declared a constitutional right to abortion.

But abortion opponents have denied that is the case, calling the proposed changes in step with what most Kansans think about abortion.

The measure declares that "the life of each human being begins at fertilization" and "unborn children have interests in life, health and well-being that should be protected."

"Codifications of these principles is legally, scientifically and morally sound," said Michael Schuttlofel, executive director of the Kansas Catholic Conference.

Under the bill, a woman would not be able to get a late-term abortion based on a medical diagnosis that the woman will kill or harm herself.

Julie Burkhart, executive director and founder of Wichita-based Trust Women, said, "This bill excludes mental health considerations and is clearly unconstitutional on both the state and federal levels."

In addition, the bill denies a woman who had an abortion the ability to deduct abortion-related expenses for tax purposes and eliminates tax credits and exemptions to anyone providing an abortion.