18:20 GMT27 September 2020
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    Kansas took one step closer to becoming the first state to ban a common type of abortion procedure on Friday when the state Senate passed a bill that would outlaw the practice and redefine it as “dismemberment.”

    The measure, which passed 31-9, bans what doctors call the dilation and evacuation procedure, and renames it “dismemberment abortion.”

    It prohibits the use of clamps, forceps or similar instruments on a fetus so the tissue can be removed from the womb, making exceptions only if a woman’s life or physical health is in danger.

    The bill also bans the removal of a separated fetus through suctioning methods, but does not restrict suctioning when it is applied to a whole fetus.

    Thousands march down Market Street in San Franciscao during the Walk for Life rally and march last month.
    © AP Photo / Alex Washburn
    Thousands march down Market Street in San Franciscao during the "Walk for Life" rally and march last month.

    Anti-abortion members of the Senate described the procedure as "barbaric" and "gruesome."

    "It is unimaginable how such a procedure could be utilized by a medical practitioner," Senate Majority Leader Terry Bruce, a Republican who voted for the bill, was quoted as saying by the Associated Press.

    He added that failing to ban the procedure would "further coarsen society."

    The procedure is commonly used nationwide in second trimester abortions, and in about 8% of all abortions in Kansas, the AP reported.

    The National Right to Life Committee drafted the proposal as model legislation, and designated it its top legislative priority. Similar bills are pending in Missouri, Oklahoma and South Dakota.

    Abortion rights advocates, including Democratic Senator David Hayley, say the procedure is often the safest way to terminate a pregnancy in the second trimester.

    Anti-abortion activists are connected with a red piece of cloth as they stage a die-in in front of the White House.
    © AP Photo / Pablo Martinez Monsivais
    Anti-abortion activists are connected with a red piece of cloth as they stage a "die-in" in front of the White House.

    "In my mind, it is the worst form of modern-day slavery to mandate to an adult woman what she can or cannot do with her own mind or her own body," Haley, who opposed the bill, was quoted as saying by the AP.

    Prior to a voice vote on Thursday, Hayley accused the bill’s supporters of using inflammatory terms so they could have “a pretty postcard” for campaigns. He criticized them for using “unborn child” in their proposals, rather than “fetus.”

    The Kansas Senate has a strong anti-abortion majority, and the bill is sponsored by 25 of its 40 members. The proposal will advance next to the House, where there is a similarly strong anti-abortion majority.

    Republican Governor Sam Brownback, a strong abortion opponent, has pledged to sign the ban if it clears the GOP-dominated Legislature, the AP reported.

    The National Right to Life Committee seized an opportunity to challenge the dilation and evacuation procedure in 2007, when the US Supreme Court upheld a federal ban on a late-term procedure described by opponents as "partial birth abortion."

    "We were happy that they wanted to take up this mantle and move it into the national debate," Mary Spaulding Balch, state legislative director for the National Right to Life Committee, told the AP. "The bill allows people to actually see what happens during an abortion."

    Abortion rights advocates hold signs while anti-abortion demonstrators walk by during the annual March for Life in Washington, DC.
    © AP Photo / Jacquelyn Martin
    Abortion rights advocates hold signs while anti-abortion demonstrators walk by during the annual March for Life in Washington, DC.

    Abortion rights advocates argue that lawmakers should not outlaw a procedure if a doctor believes it's a woman's best medical option.

    "If even one woman is denied access to a safe health care procedure by a qualified physician, that's one too many," Julie Burkhart, CEO and founder of the Trust Women abortion rights group and the South Wind Women's Center, which performs abortions in Wichita, told the AP.

    Kansas already bans most abortions at or after the 22nd week of pregnancy, but the majority of abortions take place well before that mark.

    In 2013, 89 percent of the nearly 7,500 abortions in Kansas were performed before the 13th week, according to the state health department. There were 584 dilation and evacuation abortions performed in 2013, the department said.

    Tags:
    pro-choice, pro-life, abortion, Planned Parenthood, National Right to Life Committee, Sam Brownback, Kansas
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