TOPEKA, Kan. — Kansas legislators approved restrictions on private insurance coverage for abortions and adopted a state budget stripping funds from a Planned Parenthood affiliate, capping a string of victories Friday for abortion opponents only four months after sympathetic Gov. Sam Brownback took office.
This year, five major proposals favored by abortion opponents cleared the GOP-dominated Legislature as members heeded a call from Brownback to create “a culture of life.” But Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri, the target of much of lawmakers’ efforts, confirmed that it is consulting with attorneys over possible legal challenges
“Four or five anti-choice bills, as we would characterize them, is pretty significant,” said Tait Sye, a spokesman for the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. “It would be in the top tier of anti-choice legislatures, which is probably what Brownback wants.”
Brownback, a Republican, is expected to sign the bill sent to him by the state House a mere 15 minutes before lawmakers adjourned their annual session. The House’s early-morning vote was 86-30 in support of a larger bill that included the abortion coverage restrictions. The state Senate had approved it Thursday night, 28-10.
The measure prohibits insurance companies from offering coverage of abortions as part of their general health plans, except when a woman’s life is at risk. If the bill becomes law as expected, starting in July, individuals and employers who want abortion coverage would have to buy supplemental policies that cover only abortion.
Supporters of the bill argue that it will protect employers who oppose abortion rights from having to pay for policies that cover the procedures. The legislation also says that no state or federally administered health-insurance exchange in Kansas established under last year’s federal health care overhaul law can offer coverage for abortions, other than to save a woman’s life.
The $13.8 billion budget approved by legislators, also early Friday, includes a provision diverting about $330,000 in federal family planning funds away from Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri to public hospitals and health departments. The group’s top executive warned that it will be forced to reduce services dramatically at clinics in Hays and Wichita that don’t perform abortions without affecting one in the Kansas City suburbs that terminates pregnancies.
Brownback already has signed legislation to tighten restrictions on late-term abortions and require doctors to obtain written permission from parents before terminating minors’ pregnancies. Legislators also have sent him a bill to impose new health and safety standards specifically for abortion clinics, which the governor plans to sign Monday.
“Governor Brownback has never been shy about the fact that he’s pro-life,” spokeswoman Sherriene Jones-Sontag said.
Kathy Ostrowski, legislative director for the anti-abortion group Kansans for Life, said the state’s new laws will protect women who seek abortions from dangerous clinics and provide more accurate reporting by doctors about their activities.
“It has obviously been a good session,” Ostrowski said after lawmakers adjourned.
Democratic Govs. Kathleen Sebelius and Mark Parkinson, who held the office before Brownback, blocked most major changes in Kansas abortion laws, vetoing legislation that is becoming law this year.
“There’s clearly a message here that women are dispensable,” said state Rep. Annie Kuether, a Topeka Democrat and one of the Legislature’s shrinking number of abortion rights supporters. “I’m sick and tired of being treated like a second-class citizen.”
The measures in Kansas are part of a wave of anti-abortion legislation across the nation, as abortion opponents have been encouraged by the election of new Republican governors last year and conservative legislators.
The Guttmacher Institute, a research organization supporting abortion rights, says Kansas and Missouri are among seven states now with restrictions on private health insurance coverage of abortion. Also, a dozen states, including Kansas, restrict coverage in health exchanges.
Planned Parenthood officials say moves to strip funds from affiliates are afoot in at least five other states; one in Indiana has filed a lawsuit there.
“Why would we want to continue to give Planned Parenthood tax dollars to ostensibly prevent pregnancy, when they make even more money performing abortions when that ‘prevention’ fails?” said Mary Kay Culp, Kansans for Life’s executive director.
But Brownlie said the Planned Parenthood clinics offer a wide range of services, including thousands of breast exams and tests for sexually transmitted diseases each year. The federal dollars account for about 10 percent of the budget for its Kansas operations, he said.