Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback on Tuesday signed two bills banning late-term abortion and requiring parental consent for pregnant minors seeking abortion – a move that will likely encourage similar pro-life legislation in other U.S. states.
Brownback signed both bills at an afternoon ceremony surrounded by supporters that included pro-life advocacy groups and legislators. Both bills had previously passed with a 24-15 vote by the Kansas Senate on March 23.
“These bills establish that Kansas, in the heart of America, is a culture-of-life state – and we're not going back,” Brownback said before signing.
HB 2218, the Pain-capable Unborn Child Protection Act
Coming into effect July 1, the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act outlaws abortions after the 21st week of pregnancy.
The measure was based from disputed scientific findings that suggest pain in unborn infants of late-term pregnancies, which is often cited by pro-lifers.
“Modern medical science provides substantial evidence that unborn children recoil from painful stimuli, that their stress hormones increase, and that they require anesthesia for fetal surgery,” said Mary Spaulding Balch, J.D., state legislation director at the National Right to Life Committee. “Therefore, the states have a compelling interest in protecting unborn children who are capable of feeling pain from abortion.”
Critics often say that pain involves sensory, emotional and cognitive factors and that therefore an unborn child is incapable of feeling pain until after birth.
However, Balch acknowledged that the Kansas case is a legal victory that will set new precedents throughout the United States.
“Kansas is the second state to recognize this obligation by enacting the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act,” she explained. “But we expect Idaho and Oklahoma to follow within days – and other state legislatures will be voting on similar bills this year.”
Idaho and Oklahoma had already passed similar bills but are currently awaiting signatures by their respective governors. Alabama, Minnesota and Oregon are also considering the ban.
Just one year prior, Nebraska barred the procedure, which has since then been declared unconstitutional by pro-choice groups but has yet to be challenged in court.
The only Kansas clinic that performed late-term abortions was operated by George Tiller, who was fatally shot by a lone gunman in 2009. Pro-life advocates were among the first people to denounce the killing.
HB 2035, the Accuracy in Abortion Reporting & Parental Rights Act
Also in effect in July, the second law requires doctors to have written permission from parents of pregnant teens before aborting the pregnancy. The letter must be notarized, and signed by at least one parent or legal guardian. Nonetheless, a minor can avoid the requirement by going to court.
Additionally, family members or former patients can sue physicians if they have sufficient evidence proving that the doctor had violated the abortion law.
"These are commonsense regulations that should have been put in place a decade ago," said Troy Newman, president of Operation Rescue, according to The Associated Press. "It's kind of a new day here in Kansas."
But abortion advocates believe that women have the right to abort pregnancies that are not necessarily life-threatening, and argue that the new law hurts mothers by limiting their access to the procedure.
Brownback was unfazed and said “I’m not worried” after the signing ceremony. He and other pro-life supporters remain confident that judicial scrutiny will not overrule both laws.
The legislation that was signed into law on Tuesday will replace an older statute that required doctors to notify one parent before performing an abortion on a pregnant teen.
A similar law was passed in Illinois in 1995, but has not been enforced after falling into legal limbo when it was repeatedly challenged by the American Civil Liberties Union in a bitter dispute that has lasted over 15 years.