Kansas Abortion Bill Could Raise Taxes On Women Seeking Procedure (UPDATE)

Anti-Abortion Bill Could Tax Rape Victims

The sweeping anti-abortion bill working its way through the Kansas Legislature would levy a sales tax on women seeking abortions, including rape victims.

Buried in the 69-page bill being considered by the House Federal and State Affairs Committee are several provisions, in fact, that opponents say would increase taxes on those who seek abortions. The tax sections do not include exemptions for women who want an abortion after a sexual assault or to end a life-threatening pregnancy.

The committee is likely to continue discussing the bill Thursday afternoon.

Under the proposal, women who end up receiving abortions would not be able to deduct the cost of the abortion as a health care expense if they had not purchased special abortion insurance, said Sarah Gillooly of Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri.

Last year, Kansas enacted a law removing abortion coverage from health insurance plans in general. Women can purchase a special rider to cover the procedure in advance of a pregnancy.

The bill would also levy a sales tax on abortion procedures, including those performed for rape victims, according to both Gillooly and Rep. Sean Gatewood (D-Topeka), the bill's leading opponent. The Kansas Department of Revenue's website says the state has a 6.3-percent sales tax.

Rep. Lance Kinzer (R-Olathe), the sponsor of the bill, did not return a call for comment. A Kinzer staffer said he rarely speaks to the press.

Among other provisions in the proposed legislation are measures allowing doctors to withhold from patients medical information that might encourage them to seek an abortion and prohibiting malpractice suits if the woman or the child suffers a health complication as a result of information being withheld. A wrongful death lawsuit could be filed if the mother dies. The bill also would require doctors to tell women that abortion causes breast cancer and would prohibit state employees from performing abortions on the job.

Language in the bill that could jeopardize the accreditation of the OB-GYN residency program at the University of Kansas Medical Center is unlikely to be amended during the committee's hearing Thursday.

Gillooly predicted the bill would create multiple enforcement issues for the Revenue Department. She said that the abortion deduction ban would allow state auditors to demand individuals' medical records in order to check that deductions were not being claimed for abortion procedures, which she said would violate medical privacy laws.

In addition, Gillooly suggested that the state could end up levying a sales tax on birth control as well under the provision. "How does Walgreens tax abortion medication and not birth control?" she asked rhetorically.

Opponents have asked that the bill be considered by the House Taxation Committee as well, because the federal affairs panel does not have tax expertise. But Rep. Gatewood, who serves on both committees, said it's unlikely that will happen. The Federal and State Affairs Committee deals with a host of issues including abortion, bingo licenses, immigration, land surveying, strip clubs and alcohol.

Rep. Steve Brunk (R-Wichita), chairman of the federal affairs panel, did not return a call for comment.

Gatewood said that if he and others in the House can't stop the bill, they hope the state Senate, which is controlled by a more moderate Republican faction, can stop it. Gov. Sam Brownback (R) has told HuffPost that he will sign the bill.

"Basic life-saving stuff, they can't use their insurance on. It is not birth control. It is a matter of life and death," Gatewood said. "I don't know what these people are thinking or if they're thinking."

Update: 3:19 p.m. -- The Federal and State Affairs Committee of the Kansas House has postponed discussion of the abortion bill until Monday.

Rep. Gatewood said that Chairman Brunk announced at the start of Thursday afternoon's committee meeting that the delay will allow legislators more time to review the University of Kansas Medical Center accreditation issue and to draft possible amendments on the issue. Gatewood said that the committee meeting instead will focus primarily on alcohol-related bills, including one to legalize wine tastings in the state.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story stated incorrectly that the tax sections of the anti-abortion bill would cover a procedure to remove the remains of a fetus following a miscarriage. In fact, such a procedure is not defined as an abortion for purposes of the Kansas tax code.

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