TOPEKA – A national group’s push to redefine and outlaw a procedure commonly used in second trimester abortions as “dismemberment” advanced Friday in Kansas, with the state Senate’s agreement to ban the practice.
The bill approved on a 31-9 vote is model legislation drafted by the National Right to Life Committee as part of its long-running efforts to restrict abortion incrementally. The group first unveiled the proposal in Kansas last month, but similar legislation is pending in other states, including Missouri and Oklahoma.
The measure bans what doctors call the dilation and evacuation procedure, used in about 8 percent of abortions in Kansas, redefining it legally as “dismemberment abortion.” According to abortion rights advocates, the procedure is often the safest way to terminate a pregnancy in the second trimester, but the ban could outlaw some earlier abortions.
The bill goes next to the House, where there’s also a strong anti-abortion majority but some members favor a less incremental approach, such as an outright ban on most abortions after a fetal heartbeat can be detected early in pregnancy. Republican Gov. Sam Brownback, a strong abortion opponent, has pledged to sign the ban on the specific procedure if it clears the GOP-dominated Legislature.
The national group and Kansans for Life, the most influential anti-abortion group at the Statehouse, see an opening to ban the dilation and evacuation procedure because the U.S. Supreme Court in 2007 upheld a federal ban on a late-term procedure described by opponents as “partial birth abortion.” Abortion rights advocates argue that lawmakers should not rule out a procedure if a doctor believes it’s a woman’s best medical option.
Abortion foes in the Senate described the procedure they’re trying to ban as “barbaric” and “gruesome.” Their bill bans the use clamps, forceps or similar instruments on a fetus so the tissue can be removed from the womb, making exceptions if the procedure is necessary to save a woman’s life or prevent serious, irreversible harm to her physical health.
Kansas already bans most abortions at or after the 22nd week of pregnancy.