A bill that seeks to penalize doctors who perform abortions based solely on the gender of the baby received first-round approval in the Senate on Tuesday despite vocal criticism from Democrats.
The measure would make it a misdemeanor the first time a provider was convicted of administering a sex-selection abortion and a felony each time after. The woman would not face prosecution for conspiracy.
Sen. Garrett Love, R-Montezuma, addressed questions from legislators during the Senate debate. He said SB 141 would allow the woman’s husband — or parent or guardian of a girl under 18 — to sue the doctor over a sex-selection abortion.
“Whether it be a boy or girl, every life is precious,” Love said. “The concept of aborting a baby just because it’s a little girl or a little boy is very concerning.”
There's no solid data on how many sex-selection abortions are performed in Kansas. Abortion rights supporters contend there's no evidence of them, but abortion foes believe it's a growing problem because of more sophisticated prenatal testing. Supporters of the bill also have said such abortions almost always occur because a woman, her husband or her family doesn't want a girl.
Sen. Laura Kelly, D-Topeka, and Sen. David Haley, D-Kansas City, presented unsuccessful amendments that would have offered legal protection for abortion providers who might have been lied to about the reason for an abortion.
Kelly’s proposed amendment would have prosecuted any person fabricating statements about the reason behind the abortion.
“I want to make it very clear that this is not a pro-gender-selection abortion amendment,” she said. “The underlying part of the bill would remain. All this does is level the playing field and protect providers who might have false claims brought against them.”
Haley’s amendment would have demanded “a higher standard of proof” to establish that a physician knowingly induced an abortion based solely on gender.
Love dismissed the arguments, explaining that any false claims would be exposed through a review of evidence by judges and juries under SB 141.
“Just as in most legal cases, burden of proof is on the plaintiff,” Love said. “It isn’t enough for the party to just claim it.”
After the Senate rejected both amendments, Haley made a final statement regarding SB 141.
“I don’t support this bill,” he said. “It is really not just about gender selection or the woman’s right to make that personal decision. It’s about really trying to trod on her constitutional right to make that choice.”
The Senate is expected to give the bill final approval Wednesday and then move it to the House, which also has an anti-abortion majority.
Also Wednesday, the House Federal and State Affairs Committee plans to have a hearing on a bill designed to prevent the state from subsidizing abortions indirectly through tax exemptions or credits.