The Kansas House voted 89-33 to remove mental health exemptions from their late term abortion ban, stating that after 22 weeks an abortion can only be obtained if the mother’s physical health is in jeopardy.
Under current law and legal interpretations, late abortions are allowed to save the life of the mother or if the woman faces a substantial impairment of bodily function, including to her mental health, to carry the pregnancy to full term. The bill (HB 2166) would eliminate the mental health exemption.
Mental health has long been upheld as a rightful exemption to abortion bans, making the new rule one that will quickly be challenged in court as unconstitutional.
The Kansas House thumbed its nose at state and federal courts by passing a bill that would eliminate mental health as an allowable exception for a late-term abortion. It did so even though the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that exceptions must include mental health. And even though the Kansas Supreme Court said that “the mental health of the pregnant woman remains a consideration necessary to assure the constitutionality of the Kansas criminal abortion statute.” And even though, after the murder last year of Wichita abortion doctor George Tiller, late-term abortions are no longer performed in Kansas. But many lawmakers don’t seem to care what is constitutional or necessary during an election year.
Anti-choice activists say that the “mental health loophole” is too broad, stating that they, not doctors, know when it is appropriately applied.
Rep. Steve Huebert, R-Valley Center, noted that his grandson was born this year a month early and very small. He spoke on Monday of holding the small baby and his support of the bill.
“I can’t see there being a valid reason for allowing the mental health exception to be used,” he said.
These activists have obviously never heard the stories of these women who have had to seek out post-viability abortions due to fetal abnormalities that would have exposed them to great suffering and short lives if brought to term.
Kansas legislature is also expected to vote shortly on an additional set of anti-choice measures.
The second proposal would require doctors to provide an exact medical diagnosis justifying a late-term abortion in their reports to the state.
It also would allow a woman or her family to sue a doctor if there was evidence that her late-term abortion violated the law.
Former Gov. Kathleen Sebelius vetoed a similar proposal last year before leaving to become secretary of Health and Human Services.
There have been no known late term abortions performed in Kansas since the murder of Dr. George Tiller in May, 2009.