House passes bill restricting abortion clinics, procedures

TOPEKA — The House today passed the third bill of its anti-abortion trifecta, calling for strict regulations of clinics and doctors’ offices where abortions are provided.

House Substitute for Senate Bill 36 would require abortion clinics to be licensed and comply with a long list of medical standards and practices. Abortions after the 21st week of pregnancy would have to be done at a hospital or surgical center.

The bill passed on an overwhelming voice vote and assuming approval on the formal roll call, it will go to the Senate for consideration. SB 32 is the third anti-abortion measure to win House approval this session.

A similar bill passed the Legislature before, but was vetoed by former Gov. Kathleen Sebelius. Gov. Sam Brownback has indicated he will sign into law any pro-life bill that comes to his desk.

Rep. Steve Huebert, R-Valley Center, carried the bill on the floor.

“Some people might want to consider this a pro-life bill,” he said. “I’m pro-life and I support it, but I consider it a women’s health bill.”

Rep. Judith Loganbill, D-Wichita, scoffed at the idea that the bill was directed at anything but making it harder for women to get abortions.

And she questioned why, if the standards are appropriate for abortion clinics, they wouldn’t be for other outpatient facilities that do surgery.

“Apparently, we need to protect those little women, because they just aren’t capable of taking care of their own health,” Loganbill said sarcastically

The most disputed provision of Senate Bill 36 would require women to be in the presence of their doctor when taking medication to induce an abortion.

Rep. Barbara Bollier, R-Mission Hills, a physician, said there is no medical reason for the woman to have to take the drugs in the doctor’s office.

The drugs “currently are given to a patient and then the patients go home to take them.” The woman takes an initial dose and then follows up with a second dose 12 to 48 hours later.

She said numerous studies have shown that to be “the safest and most efficacious” practice and “there is no medical indication at all that a physician need to be present.”

She said a medication-induced abortion is much like a miscarriage and that women would rather go through it in the comfort of their home.

“Women are perfectly capable of handling that at home,” she said. “They have for centuries.”

Rep. Lance Kinzer, R-Olathe, the chief sponsor of the measure, acknowledged that he’s not a doctor, but said the provision does mean that a woman would have to go back to the doctor’s office to make sure the process is proceeding as it should.

Having that follow-up visit “certainly seems to make intuitive sense,” he said.

Bollier answered “you do not evaluate (a patient) at the moment the drug is given.”

She also questioned whether Kinzer or Huebert or even knew what was in their bill, since it already requires the doctor’s office to schedule a follow-up visit.

Bollier’s amendment to remove the provision from the bill was voted down 83-33.

The bill would also require:

– That there must be a woman observer present during any abortions or pelvic examinations performed by a male doctor in an abortion facility.

– Physicians performing abortions would be required to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of their clinic.

– Hospitals or surgical centers that allow any abortions after 21 weeks or that allow more than five first-trimester abortions in a month would have to register as abortion clinics.

– Clinics would have to report any deaths resulting from complications of abortion to the state within one business day and any injuries within 10 days.

Two other anti-abortion bills have already passed both houses and are awaiting signature into law by Brownback.

One bill outlaws abortions after the 21 st week of pregnancy, based on disputed research that the fetus can feel pain at that point of development.

The other requires girls less than 18 years old to get both her parents’ permission before having an abortion.

In a telephone news conference, officials of Planned Parenthood said clinic bills like the one passed today do not do anything to make women safer.

“They are politically and ideologically driven and ultimately just make it harder for women to access care,” said Rachel Sussman, a senior policy analyst.

Planned Parenthood officials also said they think the ban on abortions in the 22nd week of pregnancy is clearly unconstitutional, but the Kansas chapter is unlikely to challenge it in court until similar laws are tested elsewhere.

“Planned Parenthood of Kansas does not provide abortion at that point in pregnancy, so Planned Parenthood would not have standing to challenge the law at this point,” Sussman said. “As other states consider abortion bans, we will be considering all of our options and a range of strategies, including litigation.”

Mid- to late-term abortion in Kansas has declined from about 300 per year to only one in 2010, following the 2009 murder of Wichita abortion provider George Tiller, who specialized in late-term procedures.

According to state records, the one abortion that took place after 22 weeks in 2010 was because the fetus was diagnosed with anencephaly, a fatal condition in which most of the brain — and frequently the skull and scalp surrounding it — fail to develop.

Most Anencephalic infants do not survive birth and those that do usually die within hours or days without gaining consciousness, according to the National Institutes of Health.