Government & Politics

Kansans for Life is sponsoring a bill to outlaw ‘dismemberment’ abortions

A 2013 anti-abortion demonstration in Topeka.
A 2013 anti-abortion demonstration in Topeka. The Kansas City Star

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, said 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.

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 the mother’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 dismemberment bill would likely follow the same trajectory.

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

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

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

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

“We won’t have any difficulty,” she said.

Planned Parenthood Advocates of Kansas and Mid-Missouri said in a statement that the bill is “yet another reflection of how out of touch Kansas legislators are with the health care needs of women in their own state.”

Women “don’t need more legislation intended to judge, coerce and restrict their decisions,” said Laura McQuade, president and CEO of the group. “Planned Parenthood will expose this legislation for what it is: an intrusive, insulting measure that does nothing to improve the quality of women’s lives or health care.”

To reach Dion Lefler, call 316-268-6527 or send email to dlefler@wichitaeagle.com.

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