Politics & Government

Kansans for Life behind bill to outlaw certain abortions

Jessie Basgall is legal counsel for Kansans for Life.
Jessie Basgall is legal counsel for Kansans for Life. Courtesy photo

Projecting a battle that could end at the U.S. Supreme Court, Kansas’ leading anti-abortion group is sponsoring a bill to outlaw what it calls “dismemberment” abortions in the state.

The bill by Kansans for Life would prohibit doctors from using clamps, forceps, scissors or similar medical implements to dismember a living fetus in the womb as part of the abortion process, said Jeanne Gawdun, the group’s senior lobbyist.

That method is used in about 8 percent of the approximately 7,500 abortions performed in Kansas each year, according to Gawdun and Kathy Ostrowski, legislative director for the group.

The bill was developed by the National Right to Life Committee, said Jessie Basgall, Kansans for Life legal counsel. Gawdun, Ostrowski and Basgall announced the bill in a Capitol news conference Wednesday morning.

The state and national organizations hope to duplicate the success they had in the early 2000s in prohibiting “partial-birth” abortion, a procedure in which a fetus would be partially removed intact from a woman’s body before being terminated.

That procedure was outlawed by Congress in 2003, and the federal ban was upheld by the Supreme Court in 2007.

Kansans for Life officials predicted their current bill would likely follow the same trajectory.

They think they have the votes on the Supreme Court to uphold it, because it targets a specific procedure and doesn’t directly conflict with Roe v. Wade, the landmark decision that affirms a woman’s constitutional right to an abortion.

Ostrowski said doctors could continue to use other procedures to accomplish the same result, including drug or saline injection to terminate the fetus in the womb before removal. The bill does not outlaw the common early-term surgical abortion method using suction equipment.

Abortion-rights advocates blasted the proposal, saying it would interfere with a woman’s right to choose to end a pregnancy.

“This bill is an inflammatory attempt to potentially ban most second-trimester abortion procedures in the state, creating a ban on abortions ahead of constitutional limits established by the United States Supreme Court,” said a statement from Trust Women, a group affiliated with the South Wind Women’s Center, a Wichita clinic that provides abortions.

Planned Parenthood also issued a statement opposing the bill, saying it’s out of touch with the reproductive health needs of women.

“They don’t need more legislation intended to judge, coerce and restrict their decisions,” said Laura McQuade, president of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Kansas and Mid-Missouri.

Sen. Mary Pilcher Cook, R-Shawnee, chairwoman of the Public Health and Welfare Committee, guaranteed that the bill will have a hearing within the next few weeks.

A longtime abortion opponent, Pilcher Cook predicted easy passage of the bill in the overwhelmingly Republican and conservative Legislature.

“I think we won’t have any difficulty,” she said. “Really, this is a great bill for educating people as well. A lot of people don’t know what happens in an abortion, how gruesome and dehumanizing that is.’ ”

Reach Dion Lefler at 316-268-6527 or dlefler@wichitaeagle.com.