TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas legislative committee on Wednesday approved a proposed ban on a procedure described by abortion opponents as dismembering a fetus, after abortion-rights supporters on the panel forced lawmakers to vote down broader restrictions on terminating pregnancies.
The bill advanced by the House Federal and State Affairs Committee contains model legislation drafted by the National Right to Life Committee. It and Kansans for Life, the most influential anti-abortion group at the Statehouse, pursue incremental restrictions each year because they fear sweeping attempts to limit abortion early in pregnancy would be challenged and overturned by the courts, possibly in rulings that undo some existing laws.
The measure would outlaw the dilation and evacuation procedure, redefining it as “dismemberment abortion” in state law. It would prohibit doctors from using clamps, scissors, forceps or similar instruments on a fetus to remove it from the womb in pieces. The procedure is most commonly used nationally in second-trimester abortions and is used in about 8 percent of all abortions in Kansas, according to the state health department.
The Senate approved the measure last month, and the House committee’s voice vote Wednesday sends it to the entire House for debate. Republican Gov. Sam Brownback, a strong abortion opponent, already has promised to sign it.
“I think it’s a disgusting procedure, and it should be banned,” Rep. Travis Couture-Lovelady, a Palco Republican, said after the committee’s meeting.
Abortion rights groups have said the targeted procedure is often the safest for many women seeking to end their pregnancies. Rep. John Wilson, a Lawrence Democrat who supports abortion rights, said past restrictions enacted in Kansas “weren’t necessary threatening the health and safety of the patient.”
“This bill actually does that,” Wilson said, arguing that if lawmakers won’t keep abortion safe, they should go further in banning it.
Both legislative chambers have strong anti-abortion majorities. The only real threat to the bill’s progress is the possibility that some anti-abortion lawmakers want a broader measure, such as one banning abortions after a fetal heartbeat can be detected in the first trimester.
During the House committee’s debate, Wilson offered such an amendment to the bill. The committee voted it down.
Kansas law already prohibits most abortions at or after the 22nd week of pregnancy, and advocates on both sides said the ban on the specific procedure could outlaw at least a few abortions during the first trimester.
Abortion opponents on the committee said they were troubled by voting against Wilson’s amendment, but they saw it as an attempt to scuttle the ban on the specific procedure. They also said they weren’t sure the language of the broader ban would withstand a court challenge.
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