Topeka Capital Journal: Abortion opponents announce bill plan — Legislation would narrow legal justification for procedure

Abortion opponents announce bill plan — Legislation would narrow legal justification for procedure
By Tim Carpenter
The Capital-Journal
Published Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Half a dozen Republican lawmakers revealed a plan Monday to ban late-term abortions in Kansas except to save the life of a mother, and demanded criminal charges be filed against a Wichita doctor renowned for performing the procedure.

Rep. Arlen Siegfreid , R-Olathe, promised introduction of a bill prior to the 2008 session to narrow legal justification for abortions after 21 weeks of gestation. The bill would permit late-term abortions only to preserve the life of a mother, he said, and wouldn’t include exemptions for rape or incest.

“The less exceptions in the law the more luck we’re going to have enforcing it,” said Siegfreid, chairman of the House Federal and State Affairs Committee.

The legislators hosted a rally for about 100 people outside the Statehouse in advance of Attorney General Paul Morrison’s announcement sometime this week of findings from a six-month investigation of Dr. George Tiller. Morrison’s predecessor as attorney general, Republican Phill Kline, filed 30 misdemeanor charges against Tiller for violation of late-term abortion statutes, but all were thrown out in December by a Wichita judge.

Tiller has invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaigns of pro-choice Kansas politicians, including Democrats Morrison and Gov. Kathleen Sebelius.

Attorneys for Tiller repeatedly denounced Kline’s investigation of the doctor. Morrison launched a probe after taking office in January.

A 1998 Kansas law allows abortion of a viable fetus after the 21st week of pregnancy if the life of the mother is threatened or if two doctors agree the pregnancy would cause substantial and irreversible impairment of a woman’s major bodily function, which has been interpreted to include mental health problems.

Rep. Lance Kinzer , R-Olathe, said annual reports by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment indicate 1,086 abortions of viable fetuses were performed in Kansas from 2003 to 2006.

He asked the audience how many were to save the life of the mother.

“Zero,” they replied in unison.

“You got it,” Kinzer said.

The practical effect of Siegfreid’s bill would be to ban late-term abortions in Kansas , but passage of the measure by the House and Senate isn’t assured. Sebelius would likely veto such a restrictive measure.

Kinzer, who called the news conference to lament the pace of Morrison’s investigation and tout evidence he believes points to Tiller’s guilt, said Morrison shouldn’t permit powerful political forces to dictate whether Tiller faces criminal prosecution.

“Stop George Tiller from performing illegal abortions on viable unborn children in Kansas ,” Kinzer said.

Ashley Anstaett, spokeswoman for Morrison, said political considerations, including Kinzer’s latest demand for charges against Tiller, wouldn’t infiltrate any investigation undertaken by the current attorney general.

“The attorney general will not be influenced by political stunts,” she said.

Kinzer said KDHE meekly enforces abortion reporting regulations that might shed light on reasoning used by Tiller to perform abortions. He also challenged a suggestion the Legislature was to blame for inadequacies in reporting because they adopted poorly written reporting mandates.

“The problem is not the language of the existing statute,” he said, “but the refusal of KDHE to enforce it.”

Joe Blubaugh, spokesman for KDHE, said the agency was in compliance with abortion-reporting requirements.

“We don’t agree with Rep. Kinzer’s accusations,” Blubaugh said.

Kinzer offered a harsh analysis of Sebelius’ veto of a provision he placed in the KDHE budget relating to collection of information about the condition of women seeking late-term abortions and physicians’ reasons for determining an abortion was necessary. Under the proviso, the agency would lose all state funding if it didn’t comply with present reporting requirements.

Sebelius vetoed the proviso, citing concerns about privacy of medical records.

“Rather than collecting sound data that is able to be properly analyzed and protected, this proviso is likely to have little substantive effect, yet opens up patients’ private medical information to public viewing,” Sebelius said in her veto message.

Kinzer said he didn’t buy the governor’s concern about protecting confidentiality of medical information.

“Privacy is a sham argument that’s pulled out repeatedly by those who want to shield those who perform illegal abortions,” he said.

Meanwhile, Kinzer took aim at the domestic partnership registry created last month by the Lawrence City Commission. He tried to get a bill passed in the 2007 to pre-empt creation of the registry for same-sex couples, but the bill never came to a vote in the full House.

“I’m not by any stretch of the imagination considering this a done deal,” he said. “I’d like to see us have a vote early in the next session.”

Tim Carpenter can be reached at (785) 296-3005 or