AP: Senate panel advances sweeping anti-abortion bill

3/23/2013

TOPEKA (AP) — A Kansas Senate committee approved legislation on Friday to block tax breaks for abortion providers and bar public schools from using sex education instruction from abortion providers.

TOPEKA (AP) — A Kansas Senate committee approved legislation on Friday to block tax breaks for abortion providers and bar public schools from using sex education instruction from abortion providers.

The Public Health and Welfare Committee approved the bill after a brief hearing. Legislators made no changes to the bill, which cleared the House on Wednesday on a 92-31 vote.

"I thought the House did good work on the bill," said Sen. Mary Pilcher-Cook, a Shawnee Republican and committee chairwoman. "I didn't expect it to go that quick."

It's the most sweeping anti-abortion bill being pursued in Kansas this year.

The measure bars groups providing abortions from receiving tax exemptions or credits that go to other nonprofit groups or health care providers. It would also prohibit women who claim income tax deductions for medical expenses from including the cost of abortion services.

The legislation also prohibits abortion providers from furnishing materials or instructors for sex education classes in public schools.

Peter Brownlie, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri, said in testimony that the organization had many concerns about the bill, but had little time to respond given the short notice of the hearing.

"Women seeking reproductive health care in Kansas need the best care they can get from health care providers in their community," he said. "They do not need coercive and medically inaccurate information from politicians."

However, Kathy Ostrowski, lobbyist for Kansans for Life, said the bill didn't add new abortion definitions or restrictions on access.

"It is not a stealth personhood bill," she said.

Most members of the GOP-controlled Senate support new restrictions on providers, and Republican Gov. Sam Brownback is a strong abortion opponent.

The bill is less restrictive than a measure approved by North Dakota legislators this month that would ban abortions as early as the sixth week of pregnancy and a new Arkansas law prohibiting most abortions after the 12th week. But abortion-rights advocates still see it as a major threat to access to abortion services.

The Kansas bill also includes policy statements that each human life begins "at fertilization" and that "unborn children have interests in life, health and well-being that should be protected."

A separate abortion bill cleared the House Federal and State Affairs Committee on Friday that would make it a crime for doctors to perform abortions solely because a woman or her family doesn't want a baby of a certain gender.

Over the past two years, Kansas has tightened limits on late-term abortions, required doctors performing abortions on minors to obtain written consent from their parents or guardians, and restricted private health insurance coverage for abortions. Kansas also imposed new health and safety regulations specifically for abortion providers that are being challenged in court.

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