Laws end ‘anything goes’ for abortion industry
by Joe Bollig
TOPEKA — Once Kansas was known as the nation’s “anything goes” capital of late-term abortions. That’s all over now. The Kansas abortion industry is now leashed, if not muzzled.
After more than a decade of determined efforts by pro-life activists and legislators, Gov. Sam Brownback signed two historic pro-life bills into law on April 12.
“Make no mistake, under these two bills, abortion will continue in Kansas,” said Michael Schuttloffel, executive director of the Kansas Catholic Conference, “but we won’t be some sort of outlier sideshow anymore. To the contrary, we will be a model of state-level pro-life legislation. Maybe the [abortion] industry will simply decide it would be easier to do business somewhere else.”
The two bills are the Abortion Reporting Accuracy and Parental Rights Act, HB 2035, and the Fetal Pain and Late-Term Abortion Act, HB 2218.
The signings ended a long, dark chapter in Kansas history, said Schuttloffel.
“For years, Kansas had been known as the place to get the kinds of abortions that could not be had in other states — no questions asked, anything goes, late-term abortions of fully viable unborn children,” he said.
“With these two bills now law, that will never be the case again,” he continued. “No one will be able to do in Kansas what Dr. [George] Tiller did for so many years. It’s over.”
Kansas has had strong pro-life bills on the books since the late 1990s, but they were ignored by Kansas abortionists, who were protected by powerful political patrons, he said. Although the bills did not pass with veto-proof majorities, they went to a pro-life governor.
“Then, with the election last fall and the passage of these bills, suddenly it was over — poof, done,” said Schuttloffel.
There is an important lesson to be learned from this, said Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann, who was at the signing ceremony.
“I think the very fact [that the bills] were signed into law says elections really do matter, and to get a [pro-life] law passed you need a pro-life legislature and a pro-life governor,” he said.
The significance of the bills is that some children’s lives will be saved, and that Kansas is no longer a center for late-term abortions. The new laws correct certain weaknesses in earlier laws.
“Prior [laws] required only notification of just one parent,” said Ron Kelsey, archdiocesan consultant for pro-life ministry.
“Now, the law requires consent from both parents for a minor to get an abortion,” he continued. “So, it really puts parental rights where they belong. Parents should have a strong influence over the decision of a minor seeking an abortion. Hopefully, they would dissuade her from doing so.”
The laws had a beneficial effect even before they were enacted, said Kelsey. Nebraska passed a similar fetal pain law before Kansas, and now a notorious late-term abortionist has moved his practice to Maryland. He also believes the laws will put a damper on efforts to open new abortion clinics in Wichita.
“So let’s hope late-term abortions do not occur again in Kansas,” said Kelsey.
These victories do not mean the pro-life battle is over, said Schuttloffel. When the Legislature reconvenes at the end of April, it will consider a critical clinic licensing bill, a bill to prevent insurance companies from including abortions as part of their standard coverage, a bill to prevent state employees from paying abortions with pretax health care flexible spending accounts, and a bill to cut Planned Parenthood funding.
“[Clinic licensing] has been passed twice by majorities and been vetoed twice by Governor [Kathleen] Sebelius,” said Mary Kay Culp, executive director of Kansans for Life. “It won’t be vetoed, but there will be opposition, and the opposition has three extra weeks to cook something up. We hope things will go smoothly.”
To receive updates on pending legislation and action alerts, go to the Kansas Catholic Conference Web site at: www.kscathconf.org.
What’s in the bills?
The Abortion Reporting Accuracy and Parental Rights Act includes provisions for:
• Required reporting of suspected child abuse, including sexual.
• Strengthened record-keeping and reporting requirements.
• Documentation of the specific medical condition constituting “a substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function” if a pregnancy was not terminated.
• Required written consent of minors and both parents or legal guardian before an abortion is performed.
• Prohibition of abortions when the unborn child is viable unless strict criteria are met.
• Prohibition of partial-birth abortions unless strict criteria are met.
• Change of reference from “fetus” to “unborn child.”
• Insertion of the term and definition of “human being.”
• The offering of information before an abortion, including a right to view ultrasound images, listen to the unborn child’s heartbeat, and other material that includes the statement, “abortion terminates the life of a whole, separate, unique, living human being.”
Fetal Pain and Late-Term Abortion Act includes provisions for:
• The definition of “bodily function” to exclude mental or emotional functions.
• Abortions to be done only by a physician who has received documental referrals from an unaffiliated physician.
• Documentation of the specific medical condition requiring an abortion.
• Documentation of the unborn child’s gestational age.
• Maintenance of abortion records.
• Civil action by the father, parents or custodial guardian.
• Prohibition of abortions after 22 weeks except for certain circumstances.