Kansas Legislature Passes First-In-The-Nation Abortion Procedure Ban

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback waves to a cheering crowd in Topeka , Kan., on Tuesday, Nov. 4, 2014, after he was re-elected. (Tra
Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback waves to a cheering crowd in Topeka , Kan., on Tuesday, Nov. 4, 2014, after he was re-elected. (Travis Heying/Wichita Eagle/MCT via Getty Images)

The Kansas state House passed a law Wednesday that would ban a second-trimester abortion procedure used in 8 percent of abortions performed in the state.

The legislation, which was drafted by the National Right to Life Committee, would effectively outlaw what it calls a "dismemberment abortion," which is the dilation and evacuation procedure that is used for most second-trimester abortions. Abortions in Kansas are generally allowed up to 22 weeks into a pregnancy, and this bill could ban abortions as early as 14 weeks post-fertilization.

Anti-abortion advocates said the graphic language in the bill is intended to evoke a particular emotional response in people. “You can sugarcoat it. You can obfuscate the whole issue by using terms that sanitize what is happening," Mary Spaulding Balch, director of state legislation for the National Right to Life Committee, told the Kansas City Star. "When you are talking to a patient, you don’t use terms that they don’t understand, you use terms that they understand. I think that is a valid approach.”

Abortion rights advocates say the procedure is often the safest and most compassionate way to terminate a pregnancy in the second trimester, and this bill would force doctors to consider alternative, less-safe, methods.

The state Senate passed the bill in February, so it now heads to Gov. Sam Brownback (R), a vehement opponent of reproductive rights who has already said he would sign the bill.

Julie Burkhart, the founder of Trust Women, which opened a clinic providing abortions in Wichita, Kansas, in 2013, accused legislators of trying to ban all abortions in the state and said she and others would challenge the bill in court if it becomes law.

“This bill is intended to intimidate, threaten and criminalize doctors," she said in February, according to the Wichita Eagle. "Policymakers should be ashamed that they are putting women’s lives at risk because they care more about politics than good health care."

Anti-abortion and abortion rights advocates have agreed that the former are advancing the legislation to see if the Supreme Court, which in 2007 upheld a federal ban on a late-term procedure described by opponents as "partial birth abortion," would also be willing to ban the dilation and evacuation procedure.

Similar legislation is also under consideration in Missouri and Oklahoma.

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