Politics & Government

Kansas lawmakers approve sweeping anti-abortion bill

The Kansas House voted late Friday to send a bill to the governor defining human life as beginning at fertilization and mandating that abortion doctors must provide controversial information to patients of a theorized link between abortion and breast cancer.

Earlier in the day, the Senate approved the final version of the bill after a bruising debate with references to the Taliban and the Dred Scott decision that once upheld slavery.

House Bill 2253 was one of the final bills in a late-night marathon meeting that wrapped up the regular legislative session for the year. Gov. Sam Brownback has indicated he would sign any anti-abortion bill the Legislature sends him.

The House vote was so little in doubt that no members went to the podium to speak in favor of it, although four of the outnumbered Democrats in the chamber harshly criticized the bill.

Playing off the bill’s title, the Women’s Right to Know Act, Rep. Annie Keuther, D-Topeka, said it should be called “the Women’s Right to Be Lied to Act” because of the abortion/breast cancer information requirement.

The National Cancer Institute has called that theorized relationship a “false alarm” and said it’s not supported by the scientific evidence.

But the main fireworks were in the Senate, where debaters hurled allusions to slavery and terrorism.

Sen. Steve Fitzgerald, R-Leavenworth, said any abortion at any stage of pregnancy “results in a dead human child.”

He characterized the Roe v. Wade decision that protects a woman’s right to an abortion as “probably the worst decision ever to come out of this Supreme Court or any Supreme Court, including the Dred Scott decision.”

The Scott decision in 1857 ruled that African-Americans were not citizens, could not become citizens and could be bought and sold as merchandise. The ruling hardened feelings on both sides of the slavery issue and helped lead the country into the Civil War.

Fitzgerald also objected to a statement Monday by Sen. David Haley, D-Kansas City, who accused Republican abortion opponents of pushing “narrow Taliban-like philosophies on our state’s persons.”

“I particularly would like to point out the backhanded disrespect that is being paid to the pro-life people with the assertion the other day of being Taliban-like, which I think is unconscionable and intolerable, and with the assertion that the pro-life groups have no regard for the children already born,” Fitzgerald said.

That prompted a backhanded apology from Haley.

“If some … who are committed so far to this issue have taken any offense by my comparison to their view as Taliban-esque, then I would offer that apology for the good of the future of our next three years working together,” he said.

However, he also said: “That’s a glaring example and maybe I’ll recede because it’s so harsh, but it does bring into crystal clear focus how many people feel repressed, especially women, by some of the views that emanate from this chamber … that are telling women what they cannot do with their own bodies.”

Haley, an African-American whose family was profiled in the historical book and television miniseries “Roots,” also said Fitzgerald’s comparison of Roe v. Wade to the Dred Scott decision was misplaced.

“Comparing a woman’s right to choose to bad history like our country’s racism or our country’s classism or elitism – which we’re known for here in Kansas still – is not a direct analogy,” he said.

In addition to the provisions on sex-selection abortions and when life begins, the bill also would:

• Establish a statutory mandate that abortion doctors must provide controversial medical information to women who are seeking an abortion, specifically of a link between abortion and breast cancer.

• Ban women from deducting any abortion expenses from their state income taxes.

• Eliminate damage to a woman’s mental health as justification for allowing a mid- to late-term abortion.

• Prohibit paid agents or volunteers connected to abortion providers – including Planned Parenthood – from providing any information on human sexuality to students in public schools.

• Require clinics that perform abortions to provide women with detailed information on gestational development.

• Require abortion providers to provide patients with a directory of abortion-alternative programs.