Kansas Liberty: 04 April 2009
WEEKEND REPORT: Bill would end partial birth abortion 'mental health' exceptions and stipulate precise reporting of late-term abortions. New KDHE report shows 90 percent come from out of state.
Legislature tries again for late-term abortion law reform
A bill that would remove "mental health" from among the grounds used to justify a partial-birth abortion was passed by the Legislature Friday evening.
The House vote was 82-43. In the Senate, Sen. Pete Brungardt, a "moderate" Republican from Salina, had tried to prevent Senate consideration of the bill by blocking a committee vote, but when it finally was brought to a floor vote, it passed by an overwhelming margin, 25-11.
The legislation, SB 218, amends Kansas law so its language matches partial-birth abortion language from the 2007 Supreme Court decision Gonzales v Carhart upholding the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act.
Pro-life Kansans had long argued that the "mental health" exception had been subject to misuse by late-term abortionist George Tiller.
The issue came to prominence recently when Dr. Paul McHugh, former chair of the psychiatry department at The Johns Hopkins University Medical Center, examined a number of edited records of late-term abortions and found no psychiatric basis for performing any of them.
The reasons given, he said, ranged from the trivial - not being able to attend a concert, for example - to the serious, but none of them rose to the level of "a substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function."
Much of the bill’s contents are from the 2008 legislation, SB 389, or the Comprehensive Abortion Reform Act. Sebelius vetoed CARA last year.
“I am concerned the bill is likely unconstitutional or even worse, endangers the lives of women,” Sebelius said in her explanation of the veto.
This time around, the legislation dodged amendment attempts in the House by Rep. Terrie Huntington, R-Fairway, and Rep. Judith Loganbill, D-Wichita. The bill’s House sponsor, Rep. Lance Kinzer, said the amendments would have weakened the legislation.
“It is crucial we do not mess around with this language,” Kinzer, R-Olathe, said in response to the amendments.
When the bill came to the Senate, it was referred to the federal and state affairs committee where Brungardt, the committee's chairman, refused to give the bill a hearing.
“This just did not reach the mark of acceptable legislation,” Brungardt, an optometrist, told Kansas Liberty. “It is over and above any reasonable regulation.”
Sen. Mark Taddiken, R-Clifton, who carried the legislation on the Senate floor said actually the bill represented a softer version of the CARA bill the Senate passed in 2007. Some of the aspects of SB 389 which Sebelius had particularly disapproved of had been stripped from the bill, he said.
Senate minority leader Anthony Hensley, D-Topeka, made a motion for the legislation to be voted on during the veto session, arguing the Senate needed more time to consider the bill.
“It is unfortunate we are faced with an up or down vote of this nature when the House has only passed this bill six hours ago,” Hensley said.
While SB 218 did pass the House Friday, the same language was originally in HB 2206, which passed the House 82-40 on March 4.
Taddiken reminded Hensley that HB 2206 had passed the House almost a month ago, and that the Senate had already considered and passed out the Comprehensive Abortion Reform Act last year.
“I don’t think these are new issues to the Senate at all,” Taddiken said.
Hensley’s motion failed on a 21-15 vote.
After a little more than an hour of debate spurred by Senate Democrats, Senate Vice President John Vratil, R-Leawood, made a motion to end debate, and final action was taken.
State Legislative Director of Kansans for Life, Kathy Ostrowski, said the interest in resurrecting the legislation after it was denied a hearing in the Senate came after the Kansas Board of Healing Arts released their statement last Friday on their intentions to address a disciplinary petition on Wichita abortionist Dr. George Tiller.
“It is so important this becomes law, especially with the revelations last week that the state medical board has stated George Tiller has performed illegal post-viability abortions on minors and continues to get such abortions rubber-stamped by an affiliated abortionist,” Ostrowski told Kansas Liberty.
The Board of Healing Arts petition outlines 11 counts against Tiller, including one count involving a 2003 late-term abortion Tiller performed on a 10-year-old girl who was in her 28th week of pregnancy.
There was no criminal prosecution in that case, even though a 10-year-old girl had obviously been assaulted. Last year, 58 girls 15 or younger participated in abortions.
According to a Kansas Department of Health and Environment preliminary report released Friday, the number of abortions in Kansas in 2008 was 10,642. Almost half were performed on women and girls from other states - Missouri alone sent 270 women and girls under age 18 to Kansas for abortions. Nearly 40 percent of the abortions performed in Kansas were performed on women and girls who already had had previous abortions.
Of the 644 abortions performed on girls under 18, more than half were from out-of-state. The report also said 323 late-term abortions were performed in 2008, an approximate 10 percent increase from 2007. Only 27 were performed on Kansas women and girls. The other 296 were performed on out-of-state residents.
“Kansas has strong existing late-term abortion law that is being ignored,” said Michael Schuttloffel, executive director of the Kansas Catholic Conference. “If you want a late-term abortion without asking any questions then you come to Kansas, and that is not the will of the people.”
One sentence of the bill stipulates that 24 hours before an abortion is performed the woman is notified that “the abortion will terminate the life of a whole, separate, unique, living human being.”
Sen. David Haley, D-Kansas City, argued vehemently about this particular aspect of the legislation on the Senate floor.
“I don’t understand why you attempt to torture women during this very difficult time in their lives with this language,” he said.
Michelle Armesto-Berge, a Kansas woman who has testified in committee several times about her horrific experience of being coerced by her parents to have an abortion said she was “ecstatic” the legislation passed.
“Hopefully this legislation will open people’s eyes as to what the truth is,” Armesto-Berg told Kansas Liberty.
The bill has been sent to Sebelius. Brungardt said he was confident she would veto the bill. Her spokesperson, Beth Martino, would not comment on the governor's intention other than to say the governor would “carefully review” any legislation that makes it to her desk.
Voted in favor:
Abrams, Apple, Barnett, Brownlee, Bruce, Colyer, Donovan, Huelskamp, Kelsey, Lee, Lynn, Marshall, Masterson, McGinn, Morris, Ostmeyer, Owens, Petersen, Pilcher-Cook, Pyle, Reitz, D. Schmidt, Taddiken, Umbarger, Wagle.
Faust-Goudeau, Francisco, Haley, Hensley, Holland, Kelly, Kultula, V. Schmidt, Schodorf, Steineger, Vratil.
Brungardt, Emler, Teichman, Wysong.
Also on Kansas Liberty:
From our archives:
- Sebelius vetoes bill banning coerced abortions
- Governor blocks chance for reform
- Lawmakers: Sebelius owes Kansans 'candor' on reasons for abortion reform veto
- KDHE also accused of blocking a criminal investigation of Planned Parenthood
- CARA House & Senate Votes
- KDHE preliminary report on 2008 abortions
- Link to Senate Bill 218
- Link to original bill
- Link to Sebelius statement regarding her veto of CARA: http://www.governor.ks.gov/news/newsrelease/2008/nr-08-0421a.htm
Link to Board of Healing Arts petition against Tiller
Link to a video interview with Dr. Paul McHugh: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mviFMpy_sBU
- Jack Cashill on the McHugh video: http://www.cashill.com/regional/leading_psych.htm