TOPEKA — Tiffany Campbell told legislators Thursday that she was thrilled when she learned two baby boys were growing inside her, heartbroken when she learned one was getting too much blood and the other not enough, and devastated when she made the painful choice to end one of their lives to save the other's.
Campbell said she didn't want to travel from her home in South Dakota to Topeka to testify this week about abortion but felt she had to step up for women who couldn't speak for themselves "because they are not brave enough."
A former Olathe resident, Campbell delivered impassioned testimony to members of the House federal and state affairs committee about House Bill 2218. It would ban abortions after 22 weeks on the premise that fetuses can feel pain at that stage of development. The bill would make exceptions in cases where the mother's life was at risk or if continuing the pregnancy would cause impairment to one of her major bodily functions. Nebraska has a similar law on the books.
Members of the committee heard Wednesday from supporters of the bill.
Kathy Ostrowski, a spokeswoman for Kansans for Life, and other supporters of the bill said much more is known now about fetal pain than when Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 Supreme Court decision that affirmed abortion as a constitutional right.
Campbell told legislators her own story about why she and her husband, parents of three children, chose to have an abortion five years ago.
When Campbell landed in the hospital with a kidney infection while pregnant, she and her husband found out their twins were suffering from twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome, which causes twins to share blood circulation unequally.
Doctors, Campbell said, told her and her husband that their best chance of delivering one of the babies was to abort one and hope the other would survive.
"So we were faced with an awful situation that forced us to examine our most fundamental moral and spiritual beliefs," Campbell said. "At first we didn't want to believe the doctors' prognosis. We wanted so badly for our boys to win the fight. But we couldn't stay on the sidelines forever. Against all of our hopes and prayers, our twins' conditions continued to deteriorate quickly."
The couple aborted one of the babies at 18 weeks, Campbell said.
"Our decision was predicated on consultation with experts in the field of fetal medicine, our personal beliefs, prayer and my intuition," she said.
Had she not had a kidney infection, Campbell said, she wouldn't have learned until an ultrasound in the 21st week that her twins were sick. Learning about such a problem at 21 weeks gives a woman "no time to contemplate this most difficult of decisions for she would be working against a clock that would deem her a criminal at 22 weeks."
Rep. John Rubin, R-Shawnee, noted that doctors, not mothers, would face criminal charges for performing an abortion after 22 weeks under the bill.
Campbell said that if the bill were passed, "Kansas women and their families will be stripped of their right to make this private medical decision in consultation with their doctor and clergy. Instead, the government would be dictating a family's personal choice."
She said the twin who lived is now 4 and "the treasure of his older brother and sister. He's the family jester, he's the optimist, he's the one with a quick smile and a contagious giggle. It's like he made a pact with his twin brother to live passionately, to live for both of them in honor of the spirit of his fallen brother."
Representatives from Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri, Trust Women and Kansas National Organization for Women also testified.
They shared written testimony from other mothers such as Campbell. Miriam Kleiman, whom The Eagle wrote about in 2007, testified by video about traveling to Kansas to see George Tiller, a Wichita doctor who performed abortions until he was killed in 2009. Kleiman was 28 weeks pregnant when she learned her baby's vein of Galen, a large blood vessel in the skull that drains the brain, was malformed. Doctors told her and her husband the baby would die before birth or shortly after. Kleiman and her husband chose to abort the baby.
The hearing Thursday was tense at times.
Rep. Joe Patton, R-Topeka, peppered Amber Versola of Kansas NOW with several questions after she spoke against the bill. Versola said women making the decision to abort after 22 weeks of pregnancy do so because of situations such as Campbell and Kleiman's, not because "they're in line at the QuikTrip to get a Slurpee and decide, 'Hey, I don't want to go through with this pregnancy.' "
"This bill vilifies women and is an affront to the pain, the loss and the mental anguish these women endure," Versola told legislators.
Patton took umbrage at that, telling Versola "you won't find anyone here vilifying someone."
He said the state had an interest in protecting human life.
Patton said he had heard a lot about the "unspeakable pain" women such as Campbell face, but asked Versola "what about the unspeakable pain of the unborn child?"
Two doctors who testified Wednesday in support of the bill said they had worked with babies delivered at that stage of development who definitely showed signs of pain when treated in neo-natal intensive care units.
Campbell said she doesn't understand why parents are given the right to end a baby's life outside the womb when the baby faces dire medical problems but can't make the same decision when the baby is inside the womb.
"Why do these children have to be born to suffer pain?" she asked legislators.
The chairman of the committee, Rep. Steve Brunk, R-Bel Aire, closed testimony on the bill. The committee will be working bills today.
After hearing from opponents, Brunk asked if there were any supporters who had not yet had a chance to testify. There were none. Then he asked, "Is there anybody who wants to testify in a neutral position?"
A few people chuckled that anyone in Kansas is neutral about abortion.
No one stood up.