Both sides of the abortion debate fought Tuesday over how much information about physicians should be provided to women seeking an abortion – and in what size of type.
Kansas law requires certain information to be given to a woman seeking an abortion, including the abortion method, the risks and the doctor’s name.
SB 98 would also require disclosure of when doctors received their medical degrees, when they started working at a clinic, whether they have malpractice insurance, whether they have faced disciplinary action, whether they have clinical privileges in a nearby hospital and whether they live in Kansas.
It would also require that information to be printed in black ink in 12-point Times New Roman font.
‘Some critical transparency’
Supporters of the bill said the additional information and type size provision would provide additional transparency for women before an abortion is performed.
“They would be more informed before they make that decision,” said Sen. Molly Baumgardner, R-Louisburg. “All we’re asking is that it be printed in a (font) point size that can be read.”
Kathy Ostrowski, Kansans for Life’s legislative director, said the bill was narrowly focused.
“You shouldn’t have to think to yourself ‘How would I know if this is a good physician?’ ” Ostrowski said. “This is not harassment. This is not an undue burden.
“The state has a right to encourage life,” she added. “The state has a right to provide materials they believe are responsible.”
Steve Brunk, a former state lawmaker working with the Family Policy Alliance of Kansas, called the changes “necessary tweaks” to the woman’s-right-to-know act.
“Women will be able to have some critical transparency,” Brunk said. “We believe that the missing link here is information about the actual abortionist who will be performing this invasive procedure.”
Opponents of the bill, such as Elise Higgins, a lobbyist for Planned Parenthood, said the changes would do nothing beneficial to protect women’s health.
“It is designed to undermine confidence in highly qualified physicians to provide a safe and legal abortion,” she said.
She called the font requirement “absurd and completely unnecessary.”
Carol Joy Darrah, a licensed physician, said most of the additional information required in the bill is easily accessible from the Kansas Board of Healing Arts. She said other information, such as Kansas residency, is irrelevant to the procedure.
“You’re demanding a burden that sets the stage for distrust within the patient-physician relationship of only one small subset of physicians and patients,” she said. “It is clear that this legislation is prejudicial, singling them out in a way that is unnecessary and has no medical basis.”
Robert Eye, legal counsel for the Trust Women Foundation and the South Wind Women’s Center, said there was no medical reason to treat abortion differently with disclosing information.
“Abortion is a safe procedure, statistically speaking,” Eye said. “It’s now a part of our medical landscape.
“So is it really proper to differentiate and, in effect, stigmatize abortion providers and abortion patients by requiring this additional layer of information?” Eye asked.
More than one lawmaker pushed back against the idea that abortion should be considered similar to other medical procedures.
“Perhaps the difference between knee surgery and abortion is that there’s another human life involved,” said Sen. Jake LaTurner, R-Pittsburg and chairman of the Federal and State Affairs Committee.