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Kansas abortion rights activists deliver petitions




Associated Press

TOPEKA -- A group of abortion-rights activists on Tuesday delivered about 1,600 signed petitions to Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback's office urging him not to sign legislation that puts new restrictions on abortion.

Legislators passed a bill late Friday that declares life begins at fertilization, while blocking tax breaks for abortion providers and banning abortions performed solely because of the baby's sex.

Brownback spokeswoman Sara Belfry said the governor hasn't received the bill in his office but is expected to sign it. The governor opposes abortion and has signed numerous bills restricting abortion since taking office in 2011.

The group presenting the petitions included representative from the Kansas National Organization for Women, the American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas and Western Missouri, the Mainstream Coalition and Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri.

The Rev. Joshua Longbottom of Plymouth Congregational Church in Lawrence said legislators and other religious denominations opposed to abortion should "desist" in their efforts to pass laws restricting the rights of those who don't share their views.

"I believe these women are the best moral agents for making those decisions without government intrusion," Longbottom said. "The more difficult that abortions become the more young women's lives will be put in danger."

In addition to the bans on tax breaks and sex-selection abortions, the bill prohibits abortion providers from being involved in public school sex education classes and spells out in more detail what information doctors must provide to patients seeking abortions.

Haley Miller of the University of Kansas Commission on the Status of Women said she was concerned the legislation would give doctors the right to lie to women about their pregnancy in effort to stop an abortion.

The measure's language that life begins "at fertilization" had some abortion-rights supporters worrying it could be used to legally harass providers. Abortion opponents call it a statement of principle and not an outright ban on terminating pregnancies.

Mary Kay Culp, executive director of Kansans for Life, said abortion-rights activists were trying to stir opposition to the measure by saying it goes further than it actually does, adding that the concerns "put Chicken Little to shame."

"This is nothing more than an attempt to deceive and scare people about abortion policy which, when the facts are honestly presented, don't scare the public at all," Culp said.

She said the effort tried to paint Brownback as being an extremist, even though the measure passed by wide margins in the House and Senate.