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.