Monthly Archives: April 2013

Senate passes anti-abortion bill after bitter debate touching on Taliban and slavery

TOPEKA – After a second bruising debate in a week on abortion, the state Senate has given its final approval to a bill that defines human life as beginning at fertilization and that bans abortion for sex selection.

With allusions to the Taliban terrorist group on one side and the Dred Scott decision that once upheld black slavery on the other, the debate on a conference report on House Bill 2253 careened through bitter issues argued Monday when the Senate approved and passed a prior version of the bill.

The bill returned to the Senate four days after a 29-11 vote to approve all of its provisions except for the language on banning sex-selection abortions. That was added into the final bill by a House-Senate conference committee after Monday’s vote.

The Senate had earlier approved a bill banning sex-selection abortion, but it stalled in the House. The conference report will force an up-or-down floor vote in the House.

In addition to the provisions on sex-selection abortions and when life begins, the bill also would:

• Establish a statutory mandate that abortion doctors must provide controversial medical information to women who are seeking an abortion, specifically of a theorized link between abortion and breast cancer. The National Cancer Institute has called that a “false alarm” and said it’s not supported the scientific evidence.

• Ban women from deducting any abortion expenses from their state income taxes.

• Eliminate damage to a woman’s mental health as justification for allowing a mid- to late-term abortion.

• Prohibit paid agents or volunteers connected to abortion providers – including Planned Parenthood – from providing any information on human sexuality to students in public schools.

• Require clinics that perform abortions to provide women with detailed information on gestational development.

• Require abortion providers to provide patients with a directory of anti-abortion alternative programs.

During Friday’s debate, Sen. Steve Fitzgerald, R-Leavenworth, said any abortion at any stage of pregnancy “results in a dead human child.”

He also characterized the Roe vs. Wade decision that protects a woman’s right to an abortion as “probably the worst decision ever to come out of this Supreme Court or any Supreme Court, including the Dred Scott decision.”

The Scott decision in 1857 ruled that African-Americans were not citizens, could not become citizens and could be bought and sold as merchandise. The ruling hardened positions on both sides of the slavery issue and helped lead the country into Civil War.

Fitzgerald also objected to a statement in Monday’s debate by Sen. David Haley, D-Kansas City, who accused anti-abortion Republicans of pushing “narrow Taliban-like philosophies on our state’s persons.”

“I particularly would like to point out the backhanded disrespect that is being paid to the pro-life people with the assertion the other day of being Taliban-like, which I think is unconscionable and intolerable, and with the assertion that the pro-life groups have no regard for the children already born,” Fitzgerald said.

That prompted a backhanded apology from Haley.

“If some … who are committed so far to this issue have taken any offense by my comparison to their view as Taliban-esque, then I would offer that apology for the good of the future of our next three years working together,” he said.

However, he also said: “That’s a glaring example and maybe I’ll recede because it’s so harsh, but it does bring into crystal clear focus how many people feel repressed, especially women, by some of the views that emanate from this chamber … that are telling women that they cannot do with their own bodies.”

Also, Haley, an African-American whose family was profiled in the historical book and television mini-series “Roots,” said Fitzgerald’s comparison of Roe v. Wade to the Dred Scott decision was misplaced.

“Comparing a woman’s right to choose to bad history like our country’s racism, or our country’s classism or elitism – which we’re known for here in Kansas still – is not a direct analogy,” he said.

House breaks with Senate on alcohol bill, Capitol stays ‘dry’

TOPEKA – The Kansas House has decided that the Capitol will stay “dry,” at least for now.

Hours after the Senate approved a measure to allow alcohol under the dome under certain circumstances, the House sent the bill back to a committee for a rework.

The provision, part of Senate Substitute for House Bill 2199, was proposed to allow drinking in the Capitol during official functions, such as a planned party to celebrate completion of the renovation of the Capitol building.

But the House sent it back to a conference committee of Representatives and Senators after a ruling that an unrelated part of bill dealing with home beer brewers had been improperly added to the catch-all measure.

The rules decision came after an impassioned plea on the floor by Rep. Pete DeGraaf, R-Mulvane.

DeGraaf railed against another part of the bill, which would allow automatic wine-dispensing machines to be used under limited circumstances at state-owned casinos.

“Why is that?” DeGraaf said. “Because we profit from state-owned casinos.”

Moments later, he asked “What’s next? Fountains with flowing alcohol where you can just go in and drink it?”

A number of House members applauded that suggestion.

The bill had appeared to have sufficient support to pass, after a procedural motion to send it back to committee failed 67-50.

Earlier Friday, the Senate voted in favor of the bill 29-10.

The only issue that got much attention there was the provision on drinking at the Capitol, which touched off a lengthy debate about the role of the Capitol in public life.

Sen. Julia Lynn, R-Olathe, said she feels that the Capitol belongs to the people and should be available for public events such as art openings and concerts, where it would be appropriate to have alcoholic beverages in a controlled environment.

“We’re not opening up the Statehouse so we can stash flasks in our desks,” she said.

Others, however, balked at the idea, saying that allowing alcohol would diminish the gravitas of the center of the state’s government.

“This building is dedicated to the people’s business,” said Sen. Pat Apple, R-Louisburg. “It is not for rent, it is not for sale.”

Senate President Susan Wagle said the only event currently proposed to be alcohol-optional would be a celebration of completion of the long-running renovation of the Capitol.

She said she and Gov. Sam Brownback are hoping to use the rededication party as a fund-raiser to benefit a Kansas charity. “We want to open it (the Capitol) up and show it off,” she said.

The Capitol renovation project is in its final stages and expected to be completed this year.

The bill would allow alcohol to be served at Capitol events with the approval of the Legislative Coordinating Council, a group of House and Senate leaders.

The bill also would make several other changes in alcoholic beverage laws, primarily in allowing some liquor licensees to provide free samples or coupons for free drinks.

The bill will go to the House for final consideration.