The Kansas Senate gave initial passage Thursday to a bill that would ban a procedure used in about 8 percent of abortions in Kansas.
The bill would outlaw dilation and evacuation abortions and define them in statute as “dismemberment abortions.”
Sen. Garrett Love, R-Montezuma, the bill’s sponsor, described in graphic detail how the procedure involves tearing the limbs of a fetus.
“This is truly barbaric and a practice we must end in Kansas,” he said, explaining that nearly 600 abortions of this type take place each year.
“What these babies go through – and they are babies – it’s unimaginable,” agreed Sen. Rob Olson, R-Olathe.
An amendment offered by Sen. Marci Francisco, D-Lawrence, would have replaced the phrase “unborn child” with the medical term “fetus” and would have removed several restrictions on abortion. The amendment was easily defeated, but it helped set off a heated debate about the bill’s intent.
Sen. David Haley, D-Kansas City, accused Republicans of using inflammatory language in the bill and pushing for it so they could use it for political gain, highlighting it in postcards and newsletters.
“I know some of you don’t believe in science. But it’s not an unborn child, it’s called a fetus,” Haley told the chamber.
Most abortions at or after the 22nd week of pregnancy are already banned in the state. The bill would outlaw some earlier in pregnancy.
Abortion-rights advocates have said the legislation endangers women. The D&E procedure is considered one of the safest methods of abortion for a woman in her second trimester, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
Julie Burkhart, founder of Trust Women, which raised money to open the South Wind Women’s Center in Wichita in 2013, called the bill “part of an extreme anti-choice agenda to ban all abortions” and announced plans to challenge the bill in court if it becomes law.
“This bill is intended to intimidate, threaten and criminalize doctors. Policymakers should be ashamed that they are putting women’s lives at risk because they care more about politics than good health care,” Burkhart said. “SB 95 is clearly unconstitutional and, if passed, we will challenge it in court.”
Haley said that men, who make up the majority of the Senate, should not legislate a women’s health issue such as abortion. He also said the legislation would cost the state when it faces a budget hole.
The estimated cost of defending the legislation against a court challenge is about $200,000 for the next two fiscal years.
Sen. Steve Fitzgerald, R-Leavenworth, rebuked Haley for his comments.
“Then we should have left the death camps in Germany because the cost is too high? We should have allowed slavery to continue in the country because the cost is too high?” he said. “There is no right to kill a human being. Innocent life deserves protection.”
Kathy Ostrowski, legislative director of Kansans for Life, the abortion-opponents group that pushed the legislation, defended the bill.
“It’s not the terms that are grisly. It’s the deeds that are grisly,” she said.
The bill passed by voice vote without any audible objections. Ostrowski said she was not surprised by the strong amount of support and that she wouldn’t be surprised if some Democrats supported the measure when it goes before the chamber for final passage Friday.
“Because it’s just unconscionable that something happens to children that we wouldn’t tolerate being done to pets,” Ostrowski said.
Once the bill passes the Senate, it still has to go to the House. Gov. Sam Brownback has already promised to sign the legislation if it makes it to his desk.