Abortion opponents described in graphic detail a type of abortion that would be banned under a proposed law at a Senate hearing Monday.
SB 95 would outlaw a procedure it refers to as a “dismemberment abortion.” The procedure is known as a “dilation and evacuation” abortion by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. The bill would define the procedure as dismemberment in Kansas statute.
Kathy Ostrowski, legislative director of Kansans for Life, held up a model of a fetus during the hearing before the Senate Public Health Committee as she described the type of abortion her organization is seeking to ban.
“In this kind of abortion, the abortionist uses clamps, grasping forceps, tongs, scissors or similar instruments to repeatedly enter the mother’s womb and tear off and remove parts of a living unborn child’s body piece by piece,” she said.
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Ostrowski called the procedure “breathtaking, especially in a society that criminalizes animal cruelty.”
After the hearing, the bill’s opponents accused Ostrowski and others of using shock tactics.
“I think it’s important to recognize that this legislation does not use medical terminology,” said Elise Higgins, a lobbyist for Planned Parenthood. “It uses inflammatory, medically inaccurate language to score political points. But at the end of the day, it’s part of a broader strategy to ban abortion completely in Kansas.”
Ostrowski defended her descriptions as clinical, saying that most people are unfamiliar with what the procedures are like.
“We’re trying not to shock. We’re actually trying to engage people about what this is and to think about it,” Ostrowski said after the hearing.
Abortion-rights supporters said the bill would interfere with the patient-physician relationship, to the detriment of women.
In written testimony, Bruce Price, an associate professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School and a native Kansan, warned that the bill “will have chilling effect on the medical profession and further marginalize women who are in need of abortion care.”
Price said that the D&E procedure is the safest for women in their second trimester and that removing it as an option would put women at risk. He noted that the bill makes no exception for when a woman becomes pregnant by rape or incest.
Melissa Tovar-Ohlson, an Augusta resident, testified that she became unexpectedly pregnant at the age of 19 during a period when she was using drugs and alcohol while recovering from the trauma of a sexual assault. “I decided to have an abortion. It was the best choice for me,” she told the committee.
“Having choices matters,” she said tearfully, noting that today she is a mother by choice.
The bill would not hold the women who receive the procedure criminally liable. But abortion supporters said it would make it more difficult for women to legally obtain an abortion outside of the Kansas City metro area. Kansas already bans most abortions at or after the 22nd week of pregnancy. The new measure could prevent some pregnancies from being terminated earlier.
Ostrowski arranged for Anthony Levatino, a gynecologist with a practice in New Mexico, to testify to the committee via Skype. Levatino, who performed abortions earlier in his career, has become known nationwide for his opposition to abortion, specifically to the D&E procedure.
He graphically described inserting medical instruments into the womb to destroy the fetus.
“If you don’t think that procedure inflicts severe pain on that unborn child, think again,” he said.
No members of the committee had questions for either side at the end of the hearing.
Sen. Jacob LaTurner, R-Pittsburg, said that supporting the bill would be the easiest decision he made all session, and Sen. Mary Pilcher-Cook, R-Shawnee, praised the bill as important legislation.
Sen. Garrett Love, R-Montezuma, the bill’s sponsor, began his testimony by describing what it was like to watch his pregnant wife receive an ultrasound last year.
Last year, the Health Committee observed live ultrasounds performed on two women during a committee hearing as part of a day of anti-abortion activism at the Capitol.
Contributing: Associated Press