TOPEKA – The Kansas House on Monday approved a bill designed to prevent the state from subsidizing abortions even indirectly through tax breaks, but the measure’s chances in the Senate appeared uncertain.
The bill was adopted by an 88-31 vote. The measure would prohibit Kansas taxpayers from claiming abortion expenses under a deduction for medical costs when filing their income taxes. It also would deny tax breaks to abortion providers, such as an exemption to the sales tax that nonprofit groups claim when purchasing goods.
The House has a strong anti-abortion majority. Abortion opponents also appear to have a majority in the Senate, but that chamber hasn’t reviewed the legislation.
Senate Majority Leader Jay Emler, R-Lindsborg, said it was unlikely that senators would approve the House bill without taking a look at the measure in committee first.
“It’s a pretty extensive piece of legislation,” Emler said.
Senate President Steve Morris, R-Hugoton, said he would decide later in the week what to do with the bill and how it will proceed as the session nears the conclusion of its 90-day limit on Friday.
Mary Kay Culp, executive director of Kansans for Life, praised the measure’s passage and said concerns raised by critics were unfounded.
“This common sense bill simply ensures women have access to medical information compiled by Kansas health department professionals, protects human dignity in civil law, prevents Kansas taxpayers from subsidizing abortion, and poses zero threat to medical school accreditation,” Culp said.
Rep. Lance Kinzer, a leading House supporter of the bill, said he thought it stood a good chance of passage in the Senate if there was enough time for the chamber to consider it. The House debated the bill before it broke for the weekend, and he said that the strong vote was “largely expected.”
“It is certainly our hope that the balance of the week or so that we have left that the Senate will take it up,” said Kinzer, an Olathe Republican. “If they do, given the past history, the likelihood that it will pass would be strong, but I also know we’re short on time. We’ll have to see what happens.”
Critics charged that legislators had overreached in passing the bill, saying that it takes the decision about a woman’s health out of her hands, while creating unknown tax code consequences for businesses and residents.
“Access to scientifically accurate sex education will also be diminished, women will be provided a false guarantee of financial support, and we will see blatant state-level government intrusion, dictating what products the private insurance business can and cannot sell,” said Julie Burkhart, founder and executive director of Trust Women.
The measure also would prevent state employees, including doctors-in-training at the University of Kansas Medical Center in Kansas City, Kan., from performing abortions on state property or state time.
The KU Medical Center worried the accreditation of its obstetrics and gynecology program would be in danger, and lawmakers added a provision saying its medical residents could do abortions off-site, on their own time, for a year. But the Medical Center wants a permanent exception.