Government & Politics

Kansas Republicans send ‘abortion reversal bill’ to governor’s desk for a likely veto

A young boy holds a sign during an anti-abortion rally on the steps of the Capitol in Richmond, Va., Thursday, Feb. 7, 2019. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
A young boy holds a sign during an anti-abortion rally on the steps of the Capitol in Richmond, Va., Thursday, Feb. 7, 2019. (AP Photo/Steve Helber) AP

A bill requiring doctors to provide notification of a controversial “abortion reversal” practice is headed to Gov. Laura Kelly’s desk after Republicans in the House and Senate passed the bill Friday, hours before the beginning of a three-week break.

SB 67 would require notice to patients that medical abortions, the most common method used for early termination of a pregnancy, can be “reversed” with administration of the hormone progesterone.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists largely discredits the “reversal” theory, saying that studies are not scientific and that legislative mandates like SB 67 represent “dangerous political interference and compromise patient care and safety.”

Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly is widely expected to veto the measure.

Pro-life advocates and lawmakers say reversal by progesterone is a legitimate medical practice that patients should be aware of. A similar bill passed the House in March, but was never heard or voted on in the Senate.

Nonetheless, the bill had significant support on both sides of the rotunda Friday evening.

“This simply gives the woman more information about what she can do to save her unborn child,” said Sen. Mary Pilcher-Cook, a Republican from Shawnee.

The Senate passed the bill by a vote of 26 to 11. The House approved it earlier by an 85 to 35 margin after little discussion.

The measure faced opposition from pro-choice advocates, who criticized Republicans for pushing the legislation through at the last minute in a process known as “gut-and-go.”

“Apparently GOP leadership determined that getting this bill passed in both chambers today was a priority,” said Rachel Sweet, lobbyist for Planned Parenthood Great Plains. “I think that they intentionally did this at the last minute when they thought people wouldn’t be watching.”

Democrats reiterated concerns from earlier in the session about the scientific legitimacy of reversal and the legislature’s involvement in medical practice.

In the House, Rep. Dennis Highberger, D-Lawrence, said “we as legislators should not be in the business of practicing medicine. I urge you to vote no.”

In the Senate, Sen. Barbara Bollier, D-Mission Hills, said “it is not appropriate for the legislature to practice medicine or mandate how a physician practices medicine.”

Bollier also added an amendment that required physicians to report data on progesterone use to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. The state will use the information to track whether the hormone is successful in stopping medical abortions.

Kelly has 10 days to sign or veto the bill. Lawmakers return to the statehouse on May 1 to finish out the session.