TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A sweeping anti-abortion bill that blocks tax breaks for providers and outlaws abortions solely because of the baby’s sex cleared the Kansas Senate on Friday, setting up a House vote that could send the measure to Gov. Sam Brownback.
Senators voted 28-10 for a compromise version of the bill reconciling differences between the two chambers. The House was expected to take up the bill later in the day, and if passed, supporters expect Brownback to sign it. The Republican governor is a strong abortion opponent.
In addition to the bans on tax breaks and sex-selection abortions, the bill prohibits abortion providers from being involved in public school sex education classes and spells out in more detail what information doctors must provide to patients seeking abortions.
The measure also declares that life begins “at fertilization,” language that some abortion-rights supporters worry could be used to legally harass providers. Abortion opponents call it a statement of principle and not an outright ban on terminating pregnancies.
“The human is a magnificent piece of work at all stages of development, wondrous in every regard, from the microscopic until full development,” said Sen. Steve Fitzgerald, a Leavenworth Republican who supported the bill.
Abortion opponents argue the full measure lessens the state’s entanglement with terminating pregnancies, but abortion-rights advocates say it threatens access to abortion services.
The declaration that life begins at fertilization is embodied in “personhood” measures in other states. Such measures are aimed at revising their constitutions to ban all abortions, and none have been enacted, though North Dakota voters will have one on the ballot in 2014.
But Kansas lawmakers aren’t trying to change the state constitution, and the measure notes that any rights suggested by the language are limited by decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court. It declared in its historic Roe v. Wade decision in 1973 that women have a right to obtain abortions in some circumstances, and has upheld that decision while allowing increasing restrictions by states.
Thirteen states, including Missouri, have such language in their laws, according to the National Right to Life Committee.
Sen. David Haley, a Kansas Democrat who opposed the bill, zeroed in on the statement, saying that supporters of the bill were pursuing a “Taliban-esque” course of letting religious views dictate policy limiting women’s ability to make decisions about health care and whether they’ll have children.
“Let’s let women decide what happens in women’s lives with unplanned pregnancies,” Haley said.
Brownback has signed multiple anti-abortion measures into law, and the number of pregnancies terminated in the state has declined 11 percent since he took office in January 2011.
This year’s legislation — which would take effect July 1 if signed — is less restrictive than a new North Dakota law that bans abortions as early as the sixth week of pregnancy and a new Arkansas law prohibiting most abortions after the 12th week. But many abortion opponents still see it as a significant step.
The provisions dealing with tax breaks are designed to prevent the state from subsidizing abortions, even indirectly. For example, health care providers don’t have the pay the state sales tax on items they purchase, but the bill would deny that break to abortion providers. Also, a woman could not include abortion costs if she deducts medical expenses on her income taxes.
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