Election

February 19, 2011

House panel OKs abortion bill

TOPEKA — With little discussion, a state House committee passed a bill Friday that would restrict abortions after 22 weeks on the premise that fetuses experience pain at that stage of development.

TOPEKA — With little discussion, a state House committee passed a bill Friday that would restrict abortions after 22 weeks on the premise that fetuses experience pain at that stage of development.

The bill makes an exception in cases where the life of the mother is at risk or if continuing the pregnancy would impair one of her major bodily functions.

Rep. Judy Loganbill, D-Wichita, tried to amend the bill to also allow abortions after 22 weeks for fetal anomalies — cases in which there is something seriously wrong with the fetus — but her effort failed to gain much support. Rep. Sean Gatewood, D-Topeka, did give her a motion a second.

"I don't think we want to go down the path of targeting handicapped children," Rep. Joe Patton, R-Topeka, said.

Rep. Forrest Knox, R-Altoona, said he also didn't want the state to be in the business of determining which birth defects warrant an abortion.

Doctors were wrong, Rep. Terri Lois Gregory, R-Baldwin, said, when they told two friends of hers that their babies would have birth defects.

Noting he was speaking from personal experience, Rep. Steve Brunk, R-Wichita, said his daughter was born with spina bifida, and doctors told him and his wife that she wouldn't be able to walk and would have developmental disabilities. She is now a 33-year-old freelance writer, he said.

Brunk said he understood the difficult decisions people face when something is wrong with their baby, but "the difficulties and frailties of life don't negate the fact that at the core, life is good."

Opponents of the bill said women who have an abortion at that time in their pregnancy do so because something is wrong with their baby, not because they simply changed their minds.

But Republicans on the committee didn't support making an exception in such cases.

The bill passed on voice vote.

Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri considers the bill "blatantly unconstitutional." Trust Women and Kansas National Organization for Women also spoke out against it.

Amber Versola of Kansas NOW said the bill, if made law, would "push vulnerable women into the back alleys of pre-Roe days," referring to the landmark Supreme Court decision in 1973 that affirmed abortion as a constitutional right. Opponents of the bill say it represents a challenge to Roe v. Wade.

Kathy Ostrowski, state legislative director for Kansans for Life, said the group was pleased the committee passed the bill.

"This state has suffered under mental health loophole abortions, and this bill will close that loophole," she said.

Ostrowski said she thinks the group will find support in the Senate, too.

"I think the support is there. Probably not as easily as we got in the House," she said.

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