Kansas Bill Would Stop Mental Health Exception for Late-Term Abortion

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jan 12, 2011   |   1:17PM   |   Washington, DC

Previously in Kansas,  late-term abortion practitioners like George Tiller have been able to merely cite the law when doing abortions on unborn children later in pregnancy rather than providing medical reasons that supposedly justify the abortion.

Kansas law currently bans post-viability abortions unless the continuation of the pregnancy would present a “substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function” of the pregnant woman.

Since 2000, that law has been interpreted to include “mental health” as long as the mental health risk was “substantial and irreversible.” A new bill filed by Rep. Steve Huebert, a Republican from Valley Center, would stop that abuse of the law.

House Bill 2007 says: “Bodily function means physical function. The term ‘bodily function’ does not include mental or emotional functions.”

According to the DeSoto Explorer newspaper, Huebert said Tuesday, “I do believe it (the mental health exception) has been used to circumvent laws that regulate late-term abortions. The mental-health exception was used in ways that were not intended and not appropriate.”

He said the measure may wind up a victim of a lawsuit from abortion advocates, like Planned Parenthood, which also does late-term abortions in Kansas. He also said the bill may wind up as part of a larger measure containing other limits on abortions in Kansas.

Some lawmakers are looking at legislation like a bill Nebraska passed that drove late-term abortion practitioner LeRoy Carhart out of the state by banning abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy based on the notion that unborn children can experience significant pain during the procedure. Other legislators are looking at the idea of revising bills like the ones the legislature approved during the days of former governors Kathleen Sebelius and Mark Parkinson, both of whom supported abortion.

With the election of pro-life Governor Sam Brownback, Kansas has a new opportunity to finally put significant abortion limits in place that have been vetoed repeatedly in the past after passing in the state legislature by nearly veto-proof margins.

Rep. Lance Kinzer, an Olathe Republican, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, told the Kansas City newspaper he will work hard to pass pro-life legislation.

“I’m focused on what we can do in Kansas to save the maximum number of babies,” he said.

Kansans for Life is urging lawmakers to start with the bills that were passed before.

“Lawmakers gathered at the Statehouse Monday for swearing-in ceremonies were excited about the change in tone this year and told our KFL lobbyists they are revved up to work,” the group told its members in an email. “Much of the positivity is set by newly sworn-in Gov. Sam Brownback’s promise to sign pro-life bills.”

The group supports the mental health bill, saying, “Kansans do not want any return to the late-term abortion corruption of the recent past and will support legislation that accomplishes that. Kansans for Life supports interpreting bodily damage to refer to physical conditions, to close the mental health “loophole” that undermined our state ban on post-viability abortions. the rest etc.”

But Peter Brownlie, president and chief executive officer of Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri, told the newspaper the abortion business plans to fight any bills that come forward.

“Our position is that complex physical and mental health issues are up to doctors and patients to decide, and not the Legislature,” Brownlie said. He promised a legal challenge of almost any bill legislators pass and Brownback signs into law.

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment shows 9,474 abortions performed in Kansas in 2009 and 121 late-term abortions. Those numbers could drop significantly if lawmakers can approve more limits.