Kansas House approves new abortion restrictions

[JURIST] The Kansas House of Representatives [official website] on Thursday approved several new restrictions on abortion [JURIST news archive]. Bills 2035 [text, PDF] and 2281 [text, ODT] passed overwhelmingly, in voice votes of 96 to 25 [text, ODT] and 91 to 30 [text, ODT], respectively. If the bills are approved by the Senate, Kansas residents will not be able to obtain an abortion after the 20-week mark, when some studies suggest a fetus can begin feeling pain. Other restrictions include a stringent parental consent and notification system for a minor's abortion and "clear and convincing" evidence for a judicial bypass of parental consent; the ability to bring a civil suit against abortion providers if they violate Kansas law; the right for criminal prosecution of abortion providers if they violate Kansas law; and for abortion providers to inform patients that the fetus is a "whole, separate, unique, living human being." Opponents of the fetal-pain regulation believe this limitation violates the Supreme Court ruling in Planned Parenthood v. Casey [text], which allows for abortions until the fetus can survive viably outside the womb, typically at 22 or 23 weeks. There is no indication when the Senate will vote on either bill, though they are both expected to pass.

The bill, similar to a recent Nebraska act [JURIST report] based on a fetal-pain guideline, was formulated partly in reaction to the assassination of late-term abortion provider doctor George Tiller [BBC report], who practiced out of Wichita. Kansas' bills are the first major actions on abortion in the US in 2011, although several state legislatures are considering similar measures. In December the Alaska Superior Court upheld a parental consent notification law, whereas in November, Colorado voters rejected an amendment [JURIST reports] that would have granted fetuses a "personhood" status, effectively banning abortion. In June, then-Florida governor Charlie Crist vetoed a bill [JURIST report] that would have required women seeking an abortion to undergo an ultrasound or listen to a detailed description of the fetus before the procedure would be performed. Oklahoma lawmakers approved a bill [JURIST report] in May requiring women seeking an abortion to complete a questionnaire containing information on marital status, reason for seeking the abortion and whether the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest. This followed laws passed the month before [JURIST report], prohibiting abortions performed because of the gender of the fetus, protecting medical employees who refuse to participate in procedures such as abortion based on religious beliefs, and regulating the use of RU-486, or mifepristone, a chemical used in abortion procedures.

 

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