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Abortion-bill overload

  • Published Tuesday, March 13, 2012, at 5:25 p.m.
  • Updated Tuesday, March 13, 2012, at 5:25 p.m.

State legislators and Gov. Sam Brownback need to be choosier about anti-abortion legislation this year, and try to avoid the costly litigation they drew with last year’s laws. So far, they are asking for more trouble, even unacceptably risking the accreditation of the University of Kansas Medical Center.

The Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education’s requirements dictate that KU medical residents training in obstetrics and gynecology gain experience in induced abortion and abortion-related complications. The residents, who are state employees, do so at privately owned and operated facilities, and they can opt out if they have religious or moral objections. No abortions are performed at the KU Hospital, which is the primary site of residency training for residents at the KU Medical Center in Kansas City, Kan.

But House Bill 2598, the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, includes a provision declaring that “no health care services provided by any state agency, or any employee of a state agency while acting within the scope of such employee’s employment, shall include abortion.”

That has KU officials concerned, and no wonder.

KU’s concerns should trump the rallying cry of Kansans for Life’s Kathy Ostrowski to “to stop abortion training by KU,” as well as her uninformed assurances that “there is no professional reason” that ob-gyn residents need to learn abortion procedures.

State lawmakers need to trust the medical education experts and fix the bill accordingly. Better yet, they should think better of the entire overreaching bill.

Following a national trend, it also would meddle in an abortion provider’s medical decisions. It would require use of a hand-held Doppler fetal monitor to “make the embryonic or fetal heartbeat of the unborn child audible for the pregnant woman to hear,” and force a physician to give women scientifically suspect information linking abortion with breast cancer and premature birth in future pregnancies. For women seeking a post-viability abortion, the bill also would exclude the threat of suicide or self-harm from the definition of substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function. Abortion-rights supporters also say the bill could allow physicians to keep information about fetal abnormalities from pregnant women, by eliminating a civil cause of action for wrongful life or wrongful death.

And conservatives who pride themselves on opposing tax increases should have a problem with a bill newly imposing sales tax on abortion procedures and barring women from deducting the cost of the abortion as a health care expense if they had not purchased special abortion insurance.

At least the everything-but-the-kitchen-sink bill stops short of mandating an invasive vaginal ultrasound test – a step that Virginia considered before opting for an abdominal ultrasound mandate. But that’s not saying much.

In this election year, the 2012 Legislature can be expected to load up Brownback’s desk with burdensome anti-abortion laws, unfortunately. But as it seeks to put more obstacles in the way or women seeking abortions, it should try not to get the KU Medical Center’s accreditation yanked or guarantee further lawsuits against the state.

For the editorial board, Rhonda Holman

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