Kansas Senate sends third abortion bill to governor

UPDATED longer version

TOPEKA  — The state’s abortion clinics would be inspected at least twice a year under a bill that passed the Kansas Senate on Wednesday.

The bill also gives the Kansas Department of Health and Environment the power to write standards for buildings and equipment, issue annual licenses, fine clinics and go to court to shut them down.

Senators passed House substitute for Senate Bill 36 on a 24-15 vote. It now goes to the governor.

Proponents such as Sen. Mary Pilcher-Cook, R-Shawnee, said oversight of abortion clinics is crucial “because the health and safety of women is at stake.”

But opponents said if the state is going to inspect abortion clinics, it also should look at clinics and doctor’s offices where patients undergo other types of surgical procedures such as hip and knee replacements.

Senate Majority Leader Jay Emler, R-Lindsborg, read a statement that many other senators adopted when they voted.

“While there may be emotional issues incident to an abortion that are different from other procedures, the patients in those other procedures are just as vulnerable to infection and complications as the patient receiving an abortion,” Emler said. “Because I believe in the sanctity of the life of every patient, I vote no . . . and urge the proponents to introduce legislation that protects the life of every patient, regardless of gender or procedure.”

Senate Vice President John Vratil, R-Leawood, questioned the state spending $67,165 for one staff person to inspect clinics. There are three abortion clinics in the state — all in the Kansas City area.

“I want to know where I could apply for that job,” Vratil asked, adding his was a rhetorical question.

He said the fiscal note for the bill means that each inspection will cost more than $10,000, assuming “that individual has nothing to do the rest of the year.

“This is truly government waste of taxpayer dollars,” he said.

Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri said there is no evidence of any safety problems at Kansas abortion clinics. Kansas Department of Health and Environment statistics show 8,338 abortions performed statewide last year. That number is down from 9,472 in 2009.

Planned Parenthood said doctors who provide abortions must be licensed by the state and are subject to federal and state laws as well as overseen by the Kansas Board of Healing Arts.

The bill “creates a multitude of onerous regulations for abortion providers that do not apply to any other physicians or office-based surgical procedures, including those with complication rates 10 times higher than abortion,” a Planned Parenthood news release said. “Clearly, the intent of these regulations is to limit access to abortion care by forcing the closure of women’s health centers.”

Kansans for Life executive director Mary Kay Culp denied that.

“We’re accused of passing clinic regulation to limit abortion, and indeed this law is intended to limit access to dangerous clinics known not only for cutting corners for profit but also getting away with it because the inherent shame of abortion keeps women from filing public lawsuits and demanding state corrective action,” she said in a news release. “And we are proud indeed of banning access to dangerous chemical abortions at sites Planned Parenthood was eyeing all over Kansas.”

Culp said the bill protects women by requiring ultrasound use for abortions and requiring doctors to have clinical privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of where he or she performs abortions.

Kansans for Life put out an e-mail during debate on the floor asking supporters of the bill to call a legislative hotline.

Area legislators voted to support the bill with the exception of Emler, Sen. Oletha Faust-Goudeau, D-Wichita, and Sen. Jean Schodorf, R-Wichita. Sen. Les Donovan was absent.

The bill also increases regulation of RU-486, a medication that terminates a pregnancy. It requires that all pills be taken in the presence of a doctor and encourages the woman to return to the doctor’s office 12 to 18 days after taking the medicine.

That will prove burdensome for many women, said Peter Brownlie, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri. Planned Parenthood now gives women the first pill in the office and sends them home with medication to take 24 to 48 hours later. Requiring women to take all the pills in a doctor’s office will “require multiple visits to get a simple medication abortion,” he said.

Here’s our earlier post on the bill’s passage:

The Kansas Senate has passed a bill 24 to 15 regulating the state’s three abortion clinics. The bill calls for two annual inspections at each clinic and has a fiscal impact of $67,165 for a full-time staff member in the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.

Proponents of the bill, the House substitute for Senate Bill 36, said they did so to protect the health of women undergoing abortion procedures. Those against said clinics where other types of procedures are done, such as eye surgery and hip and knee replacement, also should be regulated to protect Kansans.

Several senators who voted against the bill made remarks when casting their vote.

Stay on Kansas.com for more information.