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Kansas attorney general seeks up to $450K to defend first-in-the-nation ban on abortion method

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TOPEKA, Kansas — Kansas' attorney general is telling legislators that defending a first-of-its-kind anti-abortion law in court could cost the state up to $450,000, as Republican Gov. Sam Brownback commemorates the measure with events across the state.

The Republican governor announced plans Monday for four re-enactments of his signing of a bill banning a common second-trimester procedure that anti-abortion activists describe as dismembering a fetus. Brownback's events Tuesday were at a Catholic church education building in Lenexa and Catholic high schools in Pittsburg, Wichita and Hays.

Brownback signed the legislation April 7, and the new law takes effect in July. The National Right to Life Committee proposed the measure as model legislation, and Oklahoma enacted its own law days after Kansas.

Abortion providers in Kansas say they're considering lawsuits. Attorney General Derek Schmidt told legislators last week that his office could need up to $50,000 by the end of June, another $100,000 to $200,000 during the fiscal year beginning July 1 and up to $200,000 more for the following fiscal year. Schmidt's office declined to comment Monday on the request, but it was described in a summary of budget proposals from various state agencies prepared last week for lawmakers by their research staff.

His office already has paid outside attorneys $1.2 million to defend other anti-abortion laws enacted since Brownback took office in January 2011. The state hasn't lost a lawsuit, and Kansans for Life, the most influential anti-abortion group at the Statehouse, is confident the new law would survive a challenge.

"We wouldn't have to pay a penny if nobody sued," said Mary Kay Culp, the group's executive director. "Let the people of Kansas speak and leave it alone."

But Laura McQuade, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri said Schmidt's request for funds shows his office is "aware that this bill has constitutional problems."

"They ignored the health, legal and medical implications of this bill," she said.

The new Kansas and Oklahoma laws ban doctors from using forceps, clamps, scissors or similar instruments on a live fetus to remove it from the womb in pieces. Such instruments are commonly used in dilation and evacuation procedures performed during the second trimester.

Kansas bans most abortions at or after the 22nd week of pregnancy, and dilation and evacuation abortions accounted for 9 percent of the total in the state last year.

Abortion rights advocates say the procedure is often the safest for a woman seeking a second-trimester abortion.

Both Planned Parenthood, which performs abortions in Overland Park, and Trust Women, which operates a Wichita clinic, are considering legal challenges.

Julie Burkhart, Trust Women's founder and CEO, said the new law is the work of officials "with an ideological axe to grind."

"The anti-choice faction doesn't believe women are capable of making sound decisions about each pregnancy," Burkhart said.

But Brownback spokeswoman Eileen Hawley said the governor is proud that Kansas was the first state to enact such a ban.

"He will continue to defend the sanctity of life," she said.


Online:

New Kansas anti-abortion law: http://bit.ly/1GHZRGZ .


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