Skip to: Content
Skip to: Site Navigation
Skip to: Search


Kansas passes anti-abortion bill declaring life begins 'at fertilization'

Kansas state legislators passed a bill Friday declaring life begins at fertilization and blocking tax breaks for abortion providers. While it doesn't ban abortions outright, abortion-rights advocates argue the bill could be used to threaten services. 

By John HannaAP Political Writer / April 6, 2013

Kansas House Speaker Ray Merrick, right, a Stilwell Republican, watches the chamber's electronic tally board as it approves a sweeping anti-abortion bill, Friday, at the Statehouse, in Topeka, Kan. To Merrick's left is Majority Leader Jene Vickrey, a Louisburg Republican.

John Hanna/AP

Enlarge

Topeka, Kan.

Kansas legislators gave final passage to a sweeping anti-abortion measure Friday night, sending Gov. Sam Brownback a bill that declares life begins "at fertilization" while blocking tax breaks for abortion providers and banning abortions performed solely because of the baby's sex.

Skip to next paragraph

The House voted 90-30 for a compromise version of the bill reconciling differences between the two chambers, only hours after the Senate approved it, 28-10. The Republican governor is a strong abortion opponent, and supporters of the measure expect him to sign it into law so that the new restrictions take effect July 1.

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.

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

"The human is a magnificent piece of work at all stages of development, wondrous in every regard, from the microscopic until full development," said Sen. Steve Fitzgerald, a Leavenworth Republican who supported the bill.

Abortion opponents argue the full measure lessens the state's entanglement with terminating pregnancies, but abortion-rights advocates say it threatens access to abortion services.

The declaration that life begins at fertilization is embodied in "personhood" measures in other states. Such measures are aimed at revising their constitutions to ban all abortions, and none have been enacted, though North Dakota voters will have one on the ballot in 2014.

But Kansas lawmakers aren't trying to change the state constitution, and the measure notes that any rights suggested by the language are limited by decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court. It declared in its historic Roe v. Wade decision in 1973 that women have a right to obtain abortions in some circumstances, and has upheld that decision while allowing increasing restrictions by states.

Thirteen states, including Missouri, have such language in their laws, according to the National Right to Life Committee.

Sen. David Haley, a Kansas Democrat who opposed the bill, zeroed in on the statement, saying that supporters of the bill were pursuing a "Taliban-esque" course of letting religious views dictate policy limiting women's ability to make decisions about health care and whether they'll have children.

And in the House, Rep. John Wilson, a Lawrence Democrat, complained that the bill was "about politics, not medicine."

  • Weekly review of global news and ideas
  • Balanced, insightful and trustworthy
  • Subscribe in print or digital

Special Offer