Kansas gover­nor signs na­tion’s 1st ban on abor­tion pro­ce­dure


Kansas be­came the first state Tues­day to ban a com­mon sec­ondtrimester abor­tion pro­ce­dure that crit­ics de­scribe as dis­mem­ber­ing a fe­tus.

Repub­li­can Gov. Sam Brown­back, a strong abor­tion op­po­nent, signed a bill im­pos­ing the ban, and the new law takes ef­fect July 1. He and the Na­tional Right to Life Com­mit­tee, which drafted the mea­sure, said they hope Kansas’ ex­am­ple spurs other states to en­act such laws. Al­ready, the mea­sure also has been in­tro­duced in Mis­souri, Ok­la­homa and South Carolina.

Two abor­tion rights groups that op­er­ate Kansas clin­ics with abor­tion ser­vices, Trust Women and Planned Par­ent­hood of Kansas and Mid-Mis­souri, said they’re con­sid­er­ing chal­leng­ing the new law in court.

Abor­tion rights sup­port­ers say the law, which bans the di­la­tion and evac­u­a­tion pro­ce­dure and re­de­fines it as “dis­mem­ber­ment,” could be vul­ner­a­ble to a law­suit be­cause it bans some abor­tions be­fore a fe­tus can sur­vive out­side the womb and con­tains no men­tal health ex­cep­tion for the mother.

A Delaware- based law pro­fes­sor said U.S. Supreme Court prece­dents over the past 15 years sug­gest the Kansas law wouldn’t sur­vive a chal­lenge but added that the jus­tices may re­vise past stances.

Un­der the law, the pro­ce­dure is banned ex­cept when nec­es­sary to save a woman’s life or pre­vent ir­re­versible dam­age to her phys­i­cal health. Doc­tors can­not use for­ceps, clamps, scis­sors or sim­i­lar in­stru­ments on a fe­tus to re­move it from the womb in pieces.

Anti-abor­tion groups are con­fi­dent the new law will with­stand a legal chal­lenge, based on a U.S. Supreme Court rul­ing in 2007 in which it up­held a fed­eral ban on a late-term pro­ce­dure de­scribed by abor­tion op­po­nents as “par­tial­birth abor­tion.”

But in that rul­ing, the court’s 5-4 ma­jor­ity re­jected an ar­gu­ment that the fed­eral law would have banned the more com­mon di­la­tion and evac­u­a­tion pro­ce­dure de­scribed by the Kansas law, ac- cord­ing to Wi­dener Uni­ver­sity law pro­fes­sor John Cul­hane.

Brown­back signed the bill in a pri­vate cer­e­mony at his of­fi­cial res­i­dence; his of­fice said he would re- en­act it at mul­ti­ple public events later this month. A photo from Tues­day’s cer­e­mony tweeted by the gover­nor’s of­fice showed Brown­back flanked by anti-abor­tion lead­ers and two large pho­tos of fe­tuses.

Abor­tion rights sup­port­ers said the pro­ce­dure is of­ten the safest for women seek­ing to ter­mi­nate preg­nan­cies dur­ing the sec­ond trimester. It ac­counted for about 9 per­cent of abor­tions last year in Kansas, where most preg­nan­cies are ter­mi­nated in the first trimester and the state al­ready bans most abor­tions at or af­ter the 22nd week.

Brown­back spokes­woman Eileen Haw­ley called it “a hor­rific pro­ce­dure.” But Julie Burkhart, founder and CEO of Trust Women, said in a state­ment that the new law is “danger­ous” and “dic­tates to qual­i­fied physi­cians how they can prac­tice medicine and treat their pa­tients.”

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