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Abortion bill stalls in House committee

  • Associated Press
  • Published Thursday, March 8, 2012, at 3:06 p.m.
  • Updated Friday, March 9, 2012, at 7:13 a.m.

— TOPEKA — A provision some lawmakers fear could prevent the University of Kansas medical center from providing abortion training to residents is casting uncertainty over a sweeping abortion bill being considered by a state House committee.

The provision is part of a bill that seeks to ensure no taxpayer money goes toward funding abortions in Kansas, including making it illegal for someone to claim medical expenses related to an abortion on their tax returns.

The specific provision in question would not allow any state employee to perform abortions, which could have implications for medical residents at the University of Kansas. Residents studying to be obstetricians and gynecologists are required to have the training.

Some lawmakers are concerned the medical center could lose accreditation if it did not provide the required abortion training. The bill is in the House Federal and State Affairs Committee.

Rep. Steve Brunk, R-Wichita, chairman of the committee, said the issue had been discussed, but concerns were raised after the formal hearing on the measure. Brunk’s committee still is reviewing the bill, but he’s suggested it could be sent to the full House for debate as is, leaving the medical center issue to the Senate to address later in the session.

He said Thursday that due to a number of other bills dealing with alcohol laws that are before his committee, the abortion bill isn’t likely to be taken up again until the middle of next week.

“I’m uncomfortable sending that bill out until we have the language right,” Brunk said.

The medical center has issued a statement saying officials have tried to work with legislators as they drafted the measure. The release said abortions aren’t performed at the medical center or any facilities operated by the medical school. Students get that training elsewhere.

“Accreditation requirements for obstetrics/gynecology residencies, however, require that residents gain experience with induced abortion and complications due to abortion, unless they have a religious or moral objection,” the statement said.

Rep. Sean Gatewood, D-Topeka, a member of the committee, said he didn’t understand why legislators would leave the issue to another chamber to clean up.

“Either he’s OK with it and votes for it, or he’s not OK with it and he fixes it or votes no,” Gatewood said. “The reason we have a bicameral Legislature is for when things are missed. When things are brought up and you still vote for the bill, I don’t understand the logic.”

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