by Joe Bollig
TOPEKA — An abortion procedure called “equally if not more brutal as partial-birth abortion” by pro-life activists was banned in Kansas when Gov. Sam Brownback signed Senate Bill 95 on April 7.
The new law, also known as the “Unborn Child Protection from Dismemberment Abortion Act,” will go on the books July 1.
Kansas is the first state in the nation to ban dismemberment abortions — also known as Dilation and Evacuation abortions, or D&E — in the second trimester, or three to five months’ gestation.
Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin signed a similar bill on April 13. Similar legislation is also being considered in Missouri and South Carolina.
“A dismemberment abortion is when a living, unborn child is torn apart with metal tools inside the mother’s womb,” said Kathy Ostrowski, state legislative director for Kansans for Life.
The bill has strong support from the Kansas Catholic Conference.
“We testified on behalf of the bill and worked with Kansans for Life to encourage passage,” said Michael Schuttloffel, executive director. “They did great work on this bill. It passed with huge majorities. Nonetheless, it’s appalling that anyone at all voted ‘no.’
“It’s hard to believe that we even needed to debate this.”
There were 7,263 abortions in Kansas in 2014, of which 637 were D&E abortions. The number of D&E abortions performed in Kansas has been rising.
“It is a significant law,” said Ron Kelsey, archdiocesan pro-life consultant. “Not only does it perform the very important function of protecting unborn children in the womb from being destroyed by this method, it has also become an excellent educational tool to inform the public of what happens with this kind of abortion. But let’s face it — all abortions destroy a child.”
The law will not impact the health of women, said Ostrowski.
“In this law,” she said, “there is carefully crafted language [with] a clearly written medical emergency exception. The law does not impinge on obstetric or gynecological care that needs to be done.”
The abortions banned by the new law were not done for medical reasons, said Kelsey.
“According to an abortion trade organization, [the D&E] is the simplest and easiest way to kill a child in the second trimester,” he said. “For the sake of cost and efficiency, this brutal method has been used.”
The cost of a D&E abortion at the South Wind Women’s Center — the former Dr. George Tiller abortion clinic in Wichita — is between $800 and $2,000, according to Kansans for Life.
This new law was the next logical step for advancing pro-life legislation, according to Ostrowski.
“As pro-life advocates, we want abortion to end. But in the short term, there are litigation hurtles, and this is one we can jump over,” she said.
The stage for the Kansas law was set by two cases that went before the U.S. Supreme Court. The first was Gonzales v. Carhart in 2007, which upheld the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003, and Stenberg v. Carhart in 2000, which struck down a Nebraska law.
In his dissent in “Stenberg,” Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote: “States also have an interest in forbidding medical procedures which, in the state’s reasonable determination, might cause the medical profession or society as a whole to become insensitive, even disdainful, to life, including life in the human fetus.”
There is a strong likelihood that new law will be challenged in court. So far, Kansas abortion laws have withstood such tests.
“We are hopeful that the law will survive court scrutiny,” said Schuttloffel.