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Heartbeat Ban, 72-Hour Waiting Period Laws Likely To Be Debated in Kansas

Teddy Wilson

Kansas legislators are likely to debate legislation that could effectively ban abortion as early as three weeks' gestation.

Kansas legislators are likely to debate legislation that could effectively ban abortion as early as three weeks’ gestation despite the repeated failure of such bills in even the most conservative state legislatures. A bill to ban abortions when a fetal heartbeat is detected is expected to be introduced, and other anti-choice bills are also on deck in the Republican-dominated legislature.

Rep. Steve Brunk (R-Wichita), chairman of the federal and state affairs committee, told the Wichita Eagle that the committee will likely hold informational hearings on heartbeat legislation. “As a general topic, heartbeat legislation is on the table,” Brunk said.

A fetal heartbeat can be detected as early as six weeks of pregnancy, two weeks after a woman has first missed a period, and before many women may realize they are pregnant.

Brunk also said that extending the state’s waiting period for women seeking abortion from 24 to 72 hours could be considered by state lawmakers in 2015. Last year, Republican lawmakers in neighboring Missouri passed legislation extending the state’s waiting period from 24 to 72 hours, overriding Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon’s veto.

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Brunk has a history of co-sponsoring anti-choice legislation. During the 2011 legislative session he co-sponsored HB 2218, which was passed and signed into law by Gov. Sam Brownback (R). The law bans abortion at 22 weeks’ gestation, and was justified by the disproved theory of fetal pain.

No bills to restrict abortion have been pre-filed by lawmakers in the Kansas house or senate.

During the 2014 legislative session lawmakers focused on bills to make changes to existing abortion restrictions. HB 2508 and companion bill SB 448 were introduced to modify HB 2253, a 47-page omnibus anti-abortion bill containing multiple abortion restrictions that was introduced during the 2013 session.

The constitutionality of the abortion restrictions in HB 2253 was challenged by two lawsuits. Lawmakers failed to pass HB 2508, but the language of bill was inserted into SB 54 through a legislative procedure known as the “gut and go” process.

Heartbeat bans and other “personhood” measures have been a divisive issue in the anti-choice movement. Lawmakers in Republican-controlled state legislatures passed more than 200 laws over the past four years restricting access to abortion, but attempts to pass heartbeat bans or “personhood” laws have been rebuffed by lawmakers and voters alike.

Brunk told the Wichita Eagle that he has the votes in both the house and senate for a heartbeat ban, but that the success of the bill depends on how it’s written. “We want to proceed appropriately and not just put legislation together that wouldn’t work,” Brunk said. “It’s got to be the right language.”

A heartbeat ban was introduced during the 2013 legislative session, but it died in committee. HB 2324 would have prohibited abortion if a fetal heartbeat is detected, with the exception of a medical emergency.

During the 2013 legislative session, Kansas lawmakers introduced a resolution to create a legislatively referred “personhood” ballot initiative.

The Kansas legislature convenes on January 12.

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