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Kan. lawmakers expand year's biggest abortion bill

Published on -4/4/2013, 7:35 AM

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By JOHN HANNA

AP Political Writer

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) -- Kansas legislators have expanded what already is their most-sweeping anti-abortion bill of the year by adding language to outlaw abortions performed solely because of the baby's gender.

House and Senate negotiators agreed Wednesday on the final, compromise version of the anti-abortion bill. Both chambers could vote on their compromise Thursday.

The Senate approved a separate bill in February to ban sex-selection abortions. The House hasn't voted on that measure, but the chamber has a strong anti-abortion majority. The proposal is backed by Kansans for Life, the most influential anti-abortion group at the Statehouse.

The language in the Senate bill was incorporated into the compromise on the broader abortion bill. It would make the first violation of the ban a misdemeanor and each violation after that a felony.

"It's disappointing that we need to make a law about that," said Rep. Steve Brunk, a Wichita Republican and one of the negotiators.

There's no solid data on how many sex-selection abortions are performed in Kansas. A 2008 study by two Columbia University economists suggested the practice of aborting female fetuses -- widespread in some nations where parents traditionally prefer sons -- is done in the U.S. on a limited basis.

Abortion-rights supporters contend there's no evidence of such procedures in Kansas, but abortion foes believe it's a growing problem because of more sophisticated prenatal testing.

Other differences between the two chambers were technical, and the negotiators also found flaws in parts of the bill dealing with tax policy.

The compromise measure would block tax breaks for abortion providers and prohibit their involvement in public school sex education classes. It also would spell out in more detail what information doctors must provide to patients before performing abortions. It declares as a general principle that life begins "at fertilization."

Abortion opponents argue the bill lessens the state's entanglement with terminating pregnancies. Abortion-rights advocates see it as a serious threat to access to abortion services.

"We're still very concerned about the wide-ranging effects of the bill," said Elise Higgins, a lobbyist for the Kansas chapter of the National Organization for Women.

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The broad anti-abortion measure is HB 2253. The ban on gender-selection abortions is SB 141.

Online:

Text and votes on HB 2253: http://bit.ly/11bhzwo

Text and votes on SB 141: http://bit.ly/Z2OUHn

Kansas Legislature: http://www.kslegislature.org

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