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Kansas lawmakers expected to consider banning abortion after fetal heartbeat is detected

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WICHITA, Kansas — Kansas legislators may soon consider proposals to ban abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected early in a pregnancy and to require women to wait three days before obtaining abortions.

Chairman Steve Brunk of the Kansas House Federal and State Affairs Committee expects the panel to have informational hearings on fetal heartbeat legislation after lawmakers open their annual 90-day session on Jan. 12, the Wichita Eagle reported (http://bit.ly/1COFwiI ).

The Republican-dominated Legislature has strong anti-abortion majorities in both chambers, but fetal heartbeat legislation previously has split even abortion opponents. Kansans for Life, the most influential anti-abortion group at the Statehouse, has not endorsed the idea, fearing it could result in lawsuits and court rulings that set back attempts to restrict abortion.

Since Republican Gov. Sam Brownback, a strong abortion opponent, took office in January 2011, the state has enacted a wave of new restrictions and regulations for abortion providers. But GOP legislative leaders have blocked debate on fetal heartbeat proposals, and lawmakers haven't considered a proposal to increase the state's waiting period for an abortion from 24 hours to 72 hours.

"As a general topic, heartbeat legislation is on the table," said Brunk, a Wichita Republican.

Brunk also said a 72-hour waiting period could be considered after the GOP-controlled Missouri Legislature enacted such a law in September over Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon's veto.

Kansans for Life has not yet set its agenda for the session, said Kathy Ostrowski, its legislative director. In the past, the group has pushed for incremental change.

Abortion rights groups are bracing for debates over more sweeping proposals after lawmakers last year considered technical changes in laws approved in previous years.

Abortion rights groups believe a fetal heartbeat law could ban abortions as early as the third week after conception — before many women know they're pregnant. A bill introduced in 2013 would have prohibited non-emergency abortions before a doctor searches for a fetal heartbeat and informs a patient that one exists.

Laura McQuade, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri said the ultimate goal of anti-abortion legislators to eliminate abortion services in Kansas. The state has three clinics that perform abortions, including one operated by Planned Parenthood in Overland Park.

"It's a tough political environment for women's health and women's rights in Kansas," she said.


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Kansas Legislature: http://www.kslegislature.org

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