Kansas Committee Reviews Enforcement Of Late-Term Abortion Law

Armen Hareyan's picture

Late-Term Abortion Law

The Kansas Special Committee on Federal and State Affairs on Fridayheld its first hearing examining enforcement of a 1998 law thatregulates abortions after 21 weeks' gestation, the AP/Joplin Globereports. The committee, which could recommend changes to the law to the2008 Legislature, has scheduled two additional days for hearings thisweek (AP/Joplin Globe, 8/31).

The lawsays that before an abortion of a fetus of 21 weeks' gestation or more,two physicians must determine that continuation of a pregnancy willlead to death or "substantial and irreversible" harm to a "major bodilyfunction." Consulting physicians cannot have legal or financial ties toabortion providers (Kaiser Daily Women's Health Policy Report, 8/23).

More than 2,600 late-term abortions have been performed since the law took effect, the AP/Globe reports. Somelegislators believe the state should review the diagnoses given forlate-term abortions, while other lawmakers said that they do not see aproblem with how the two agencies enforcing the law -- the Kansas Department of Health and Environment and the Kansas State Board of Healing Arts -- are operating. According to the AP/Globe, the issue surfaced because of the case against physician George Tiller, who is charged with 19 misdemeanors for allegedly violating the law.


Enforcement, Reaction

The health department has no rules dictating what informationphysicians who perform late-term abortions should provide the state,and some people have criticized the department for allowing physiciansto say that "substantial and irreversible" harm would occur withoutspecifying the diagnosis.

Susan Kang, policy director for thehealth department, said that because the agency does not regulateabortion, it does not have the authority to write rules about whatinformation regarding late-term abortions should be reported. Healthdepartment officials added that the department's role is to collect anddistribute information about abortion, not to enforce the law.

Officialsfrom the healing arts board, which regulates physicians in the state,said the board responds to complaints and evaluates care in individualcases but does not investigate every late-term abortion performed, inpart because it does not have the resources to do so. Larry Buening,executive director of the board, said the board from July 1, 2005, toJune 30, 2006, received almost 2,600 complaints of late-term abortions."We don't go and look at every appendectomy to see that everyappendectomy in fact complied with the standard of care," Buening said.

Julie Burkhart, a lobbyist for ProKanDo,said abortion opponents in the Legislature are attempting to single outabortion providers with the aim of reducing access to their services.Mary Kay Culp, executive director of Kansans for Life,said the committee hearings last week "made it painfully obvious justhow far" the health department and healing arts board "have gone toavoid the intent and enforcement of Kansas' late-term abortion law" (AP/Joplin Globe, 8/31).

Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. You can view theentire Kaiser DailyWomen's Health Policy Report, search the archives, and sign up for emaildelivery at kaisernetwork.org/email. The Kaiser Daily Women's Health Policy Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, afree service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.