Proposed abortion law draws heated debate in Kansas House committee

A bill forbidding the use of state money, tax credits or tax exemptions for abortion drew heated debate Wednesday in the House Federal and State Affairs Committee.

House Bill 2253 also would bar the state from discriminating against any health-care provider that declines involvement in abortion. It revises a law requiring doctors to give women certain information before terminating their pregnancies. And it includes language indicating that “the life of each human being begins at fertilization.”

Anti-abortion advocates said that government money should not be allocated for abortion procedures and that the bill provides general protection and rights for the unborn.

Michael Schuttloffel, executive director of the Kansas Catholic Conference, said the organization applauds the bill’s language. He contended that doctors who perform abortions do so solely for financial purposes.

“The state should not be in any support of any way to those who destroy innocent human life for money,” Schuttloffel said. “And make no mistake, that is what they do.”

The tax provisions the bill would impose would wreak havoc among patients, said Herbert Hobes, an Overland Park doctor in Kansas since 1970.

Hobes also said the bill would require doctors to violate their ethical obligations and provide patients with false information that abortion poses a risk of premature birth in future pregnancies. The American Cancer Society and the National Cancer Institute say no scientific studies support that.

Also under the bill, a doctor would not be permitted to perform an abortion without a documented referral from another doctor indicating it is necessary to preserve the woman’s life. And at least 24 hours before the abortion, the doctor must inform a woman in writing of the dangers it could pose, as well as alternatives.

“A physician is not going to act on his or her best judgment if we have got someone with a stopwatch that says you didn’t wait 24 hours,” Hobes said. “That is the problem.”

Rep. Lance Kinzer, R-Olathe, commended the Brownback administration for increasing the display of information about what he called the dangers of abortion. He applauded the bill for language requiring expanding this material in abortion clinics.

“It is simply night and day in terms of the quality of those materials,” Kinzer said. “What we want to make sure is that the good work that the governor has done is locked into statute.”

Opponents pleaded with lawmakers to consider the implications of the bill. Many said an improper hierarchy shifting the decision from medical professionals to legislators has occurred.

Hobes said that Kansas is the poster child for anti-abortion laws and that these restrictions will result in continued lack of doctors in the state. He said the bill would reduce access to necessary health care in Kansas and harm the physician-patient relationship.

Elise Higgins, Kansas National Organization for Women lobbyist and state co-coordinator, said the bill triggers a “blanket ban on all abortions” based on pseudoscience rather than evidence. Higgins said Kansas leads the nation on abortion restrictions and that many constituents and Kansans are not anti-abortion in the first place.

“Kansas already has 20 anti-abortion laws on the books. We need stronger schools and a healthier economy,” she said. “Not another extreme law that puts politicians between women, their families and their doctors.”