Kansas House overrides veto on three anti-abortion bills

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Anti-abortion activists gather at the steps of the Kansas State Capitol Tuesday.

Anti-abortion activists gather at the steps of the Kansas State Capitol Tuesday.

The Kansas City Star

Kansas abortion providers may soon have a new set of rules promoted by anti-abortion groups to abide by less than a year after voters overwhelmingly opted to retain access to the procedure in the state.

As abortion rights advocates sat in the House gallery with signs about last year’s vote, the Kansas House voted Wednesday to override Gov. Laura Kelly’s veto on three anti-abortion bills. One requires providers to notify patients a medication abortion is reversible — though that isn’t proven. Another imposes new criminal penalties if a provider does not care for an infant “born alive” during an abortion, while a third bill makes it harder for abortion providers to access liability insurance.

The bills now head to the Kansas Senate where two of the three bills passed earlier this month with a veto-proof majority.

The House voted 87-37 to override the veto on the “born alive” bill and 84-40 on both the bill requiring notification for abortion pill reversal and the bill making it harder for providers to access liability insurance.

Advocates said the measures were key to protect infants in Kansas if abortions went wrong and to ensure patients have all their options if they regret taking mifepristone, the first pill taken in a medication abortion.

But medical experts and Kansas abortion providers said the bills were redundant with existing policy and ignored medical science surrounding abortion. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has said the “born alive” bill seeks to prevent a situation that does not occur in modern abortion care and that the “abortion pill reversal” legislation is not based in science.

Federal law already requires care for infants “born alive” in an abortion but the new bill creates new criminal penalties for those who do not comply. Advocates said that accountability was important.

“We owe it to these people to provide care to those who are weak, powerless,” said Rep. Ron Bryce, a Coffeyville Republican.

Democrats opposing the bill warned of unforeseen consequences by limiting options in tragic circumstances and by driving gynecologists and obstetricians out of Kansas.

“Who are we truly trying to protect? We have increased criminalization for these providers,” said Rep. Melissa Oropeza, a Kansas City Democrat. “Do you think any of these providers are going to continue going into this specialty care where we are criminalizing our providers?”

The procedure to “reverse” a medication abortion is based upon limited studies that have been criticized as insufficient to prove the procedure works and is safe.The procedure involves providing a woman who has taken the first of two pills used in a medication abortion with progesterone, which is often used to treat women experiencing miscarriage.

Under the proposal, providers would be required to tell anyone receiving mifepristone that the procedure is “reversible.”

“By denying (a patient) that information the abortion industry is essentially forcing her to complete an abortion she no longer wants,” said Jeanne Gawdun, a lobbyist for Kansans for Life.

Anti-abortion dvocates cited a case study from an anti-abortion doctor in California that found the hormone worked to halt abortions for about two-thirds of cases. But the study lacked a control group so it’s unclear if the progesterone was needed or if the abortion would have been halted if the patient just didn’t take the second pill.

“The legislation also shows little regard for patient health and safety, forcing providers to break patients’ trusts by relaying information grounded neither in truth nor science,” Alexis McGill Johnson, President of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, said in a statement earlier this month calling for Kelly’s veto.

The abortion pill reversal bill would also redefine abortion in state law to explicitly exclude contraceptives, miscarriage care and ectopic pregnancy care.

In the wake of the Supreme Court’s reversal of Roe v. Wade, doctors in states with strict abortion restricts have said they were forced to delay care for women facing ectopic pregnancies for fear of criminal penalties.

Anti-abortion advocates say the goal is to provide clarity in the wake of fears following the fall of Roe.

Gawdun said the definition was a direct response to abortion rights advocates.

“It’s interesting why opponents to that legislation why they wouldn’t even vote for it because they were part of the ones that spread this fear to women and their doctors,” Gawdun said.

But Democrats said the policy laid the groundwork for a new constitutional amendment fight.

“The Kansas Supreme court gave us bodily autonomy. The Legislature is trying to take that away,” said Rep. Susan Ruiz, a Shawnee Democrat.

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Katie Bernard covers the Kansas Legislature and state government for the Kansas City Star. She joined the Star as a breaking news reporter in May of 2019 before moving to the politics team in December 2020. Katie studied journalism and political science at the University of Kansas.

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