Kansas House advances bill barring mental health as a reason for late-term abortion

TOPEKA — The Kansas House gave preliminary approval Monday to a bill that would prevent women from using mental health as a reason to receive a late-term abortion on a viable fetus.

The courts have said that a woman’s mental health can fall under the definition of “irreversible impairment of a major bodily function.” House Bill 2166 would specify that bodily function does not include mental or emotional functions.

Abortion opponents said the change would bring the law closer to the late-term abortion rules’ original intent.

The provision is aimed at late-term abortions done on fetuses that could live outside the mother’s womb, said Rep. Lance Kinzer, R-Olathe, a vocal abortion opponent.

“If we say our laws do not extend to protect those unborn children at that stage, it says something very deep, very dark and very disturbing about where we are as a culture,” Kinzer said.

Late-term abortions are procedures performed during or after the 22 week of pregnancy. No clinic in Kansas offers them now. Dr. George Tiller of Wichita was one of a handful of abortion providers nationwide who performed them at his Wichita clinic. He was shot to death in his church this summer.

Rep. Judy Loganbill, D-Wichita, argued against the provision, saying a person’s physical and mental health are interwoven.

“What happens to the body affects the mind. What happens to the mind affects the body,” she said.

The bill passed on a roll call vote of 85-30 and probably will come up for a final House vote today. It still must go to the Senate.

Lawmakers could consider a second late-term abortion bill soon. Details are being hammered out in a conference committee.

The second proposal would require doctors to provide an exact medical diagnosis justifying a late-term abortion in their reports to the state.

It also would allow a woman or her family to sue a doctor if there was evidence that her late-term abortion violated the law.

Former Gov. Kathleen Sebelius vetoed a similar proposal last year before leaving to become secretary of Health and Human Services.