Politics & Government

Regulation of abortion clinics and physicians becomes law

A bill to put strict regulations on abortion clinics and restrict how doctors provide their patients with abortion-inducing drugs was signed into law by Gov. Sam Brownback on Monday.

Brownback signed House Substitute for Senate Bill 36, which requires abortion clinics to be licensed and comply with a long list of medical standards and practices.

Abortions after the 21st week of pregnancy will be allowed only at a hospital or surgical center. Doctors can perform abortions only within 30 miles of a hospital where they have admitting privileges.

Doctors also will be required to have at least one other person in the room — and the doctor or observer has to be female — to perform an abortion or related pelvic examination.

The most contentious part of the new law is a section requiring that a woman who undergoes a medication-induced abortion take the drugs in the presence of her doctor.

Rep. Barbara Bollier, R-Mission Hills, a physician, argued during House debate that there is no medical reason for a woman to have to take the drugs, such as RU-486, in a doctor's office. She said side effects from a medication-induced abortion are much like a miscarriage and women would rather go through it in the comfort of their home.

The bill is one of four anti-abortion measures passed by the Legislature this session.

The other bills:

* Prohibit insurance companies from providing abortion coverage as part of their regular health-care plans.

* Outlaw most abortions after the 21st week of pregnancy, based on disputed research that the fetus can feel pain at that point of development. Abortions past that point are allowed only when two unaffiliated doctors agree that it is needed to save the pregnant woman's life or prevent "substantial and irreversible physical impairment of a major bodily function," specifically not including the woman's mental health.

* Require girls younger than 18 to get both parents' or a judge's permission before having an abortion.

Brownback has already signed the fetal-pain and parental consent bills, consistent with his earlier pledge to sign any pro-life legislation that crosses his desk.