Kansas legislators gave final passage to a sweeping anti-abortion measure Friday, sending Gov. Sam Brownback a bill that declares life begins “at fertilization” while blocking tax breaks for abortion providers and banning abortions performed solely because of the baby's sex.
The House voted 90-30 for the bill on Friday night, hours after the Senate voted 28-10 in favor of it. Brownback is likely to sign the bill into law.
The bill passed despite any solid data on how many sex-selection abortions are performed in Kansas. A 2008 study by two Columbia University economists suggested the practice of aborting female fetuses – widespread in some nations where parents traditionally prefer sons – is done in the U.S. on a limited basis.
Abortion-rights supporters contend there's no evidence of such procedures in Kansas, but abortion foes believe it's a growing problem because of more sophisticated prenatal testing.
The bill also blocks tax breaks for abortion providers and prohibits their involvement in public school sex education classes. It also would spell out in more detail what information doctors must provide to patients before performing abortions.
Abortion opponents argue the bill lessens the state's entanglement with terminating pregnancies. Abortion-rights advocates see it as a serious threat to access to abortion services.
The measure also declares as a general principle that life begins “at fertilization.”
That type of idea is embodied in “personhood” measures in other states. Such measures are aimed at revising their constitutions to ban all abortions, and none have been enacted, though North Dakota voters will have one on the ballot in 2014.
But Kansas lawmakers aren't trying to change the state constitution, and the measure notes that any rights suggested by the language are limited by decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court. It declared in its historic Roe v. Wade decision in 1973 that women have a right to obtain abortions in some circumstances, and has upheld that decision while allowing increasing restrictions by states.
Thirteen states, including Missouri, have similar language to the Kansas bill in their laws, according to the National Right to Life Committee.
Abortion opponents say the “at fertilization” language is akin to a statement of principle and not a legally enforceable ban on the procedure. Abortion-rights advocates are skeptical of that stance.