Kansas bill limiting privacy advances as lawmakers opine on ‘regret and emptiness’ of abortion

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TOPEKA — Is your partner abusive? Is your pregnancy a result of rape?

Senate Republicans say these questions, along with nine others proposed to survey pregnant people in the state before they can receive an abortion, will help lawmakers make better decisions. Critics say the proposed survey is overly invasive, offensive and a blatant attempt to push an anti-abortion agenda. 

Sen. Mark Steffen, a Hutchinson Republican, said during Tuesday’s Senate Session that he supported the bill because of his anti-abortion views. Steffen is known for pushing discredited treatments for people with COVID-19 and for offering to convert a reporter as well as a Muslim constituent to his religion.

“Abortion is the pathway to a life of regret and emptiness,” Steffen said. “… Every abortion kills an innocent child. That’s a fact. Every abortion kills an innocent child.”

Several of his Republican colleagues, including Sens. Alicia Straub, Mike Thompson and Renee Erickson supported his comments on abortion.

Others splintered on the bill. Sen. Carolyn McGinn, a Sedgwick Republican, said the idea had too many flaws.

“I have a 20-year record of voting pro-life and I would like to have voted for this bill as well,” McGinn said Tuesday. “But listening to the debate yesterday, it clearly showed that there were a lot of flaws in this bill that I think could have unintended consequences for people’s privacy, and I don’t know that it clearly spelled out exactly what it’s going to do and how it’s going to help women and decrease abortions.”

The Senate gave initial approval to House Bill 2749 on Monday. The bill would require medical care facilities and providers to report the reasons for each abortion to the state secretary of health and environment.

The legislation would mandate a report that includes the patients’ age, marital status, home state, race, education level, whether the patient received financial or social services from a  nonprofit geared toward helping pregnant women, whether they experienced domestic violence the previous year, whether they live in a stable and affordable home, whether the patient was ever a reported victim of physical, mental, or emotional abuse and the method by which the abortion was performed on the patient.

“If the bill sponsors were genuine and seeking to support Kansans, they would focus on policies which reduce unintended pregnancies, support pregnant Kansas and support Kansas families,” said Senate Minority Leader Dinah Sykes, a Lenexa Democrat.

The House Committee on Health and Human Services is listed as the bill’s original sponsor, but it was actually introduced by Rep. Ron Bryce, R-Coffeyville, on behalf of the anti-abortion group Kansans for Life. The House passed the bill 81-39 on March 7.

The state already publishes a comprehensive annual abortion report, but Sen. Beverly Gossage, a Eudora Republican, said more data could help guide policies on Monday.

“Any of this data would be helpful to know why women in general would make these very difficult decisions,” Gossage said.

Sykes pushed back on her claim. 

“I think it is a farce that we are saying this is what we’re passing so that we can address good policy, because we have the data, we have the information, and we choose not to use it,” Sykes said.

The bill passed the Senate 27-13. The legislation now advances to the governor for consideration.

Kansas Reflector is part of States Newsroom, a nonprofit news network supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Kansas Reflector maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Sherman Smith for questions: info@kansasreflector.com. Follow Kansas Reflector on Facebook and Twitter.

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