Kansas abortion debate gets heated over rubber stamp 'attack'

TOPEKA — A Kansas abortion debate turned nasty Thursday when the leader of a women's group pulled out a rubber stamp and accused a House panel of routinely approving bills restricting the procedure.

One lawmaker walked out in protest.

The committee was concluding two days of hearings on new abortion restrictions when the state coordinator of the National Organization for Women ripped lawmakers for approving any bill that abortion opponents want.

“Let’s just move this bill right along out of this committee,” Kari Ann Rinker told legislators. “It doesn’t take a genius to know how each of you will be voting.”

Then Rinker removed a large rubber stamp from a brown paper bag, along with an ink pad. In big red block letters, she stamped “APPROVED” on a bill requiring physicians to play a fetal heartbeat for a woman seeking an abortion.

Rinker’s remarks agitated lawmakers, some of whom suggested she was out of line and disrespectful.

Rep. John Rubin called Rinker’s comments a “scurrilous attack” before storming out during the rest of her testimony.

At issue was a proposal that would require physicians to use handheld Doppler fetal monitors so pregnant women could hear the heartbeat of the unborn.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Lance Kinzer, an Olathe Republican, also eliminates an array of tax credits and deductions related to abortion.

The measure, backed by Kansans for Life, also would require women to be notified in writing about the risks of an abortion. They would have to be told about the possibilities of premature birth in future pregnancies, the risks of breast cancer and dangers to the woman’s reproductive health.

Abortion rights supporters hotly contest this provision — and many others in the bill.

Among other things, the bill also would:

Require doctors to tell women about pain that can be felt by the fetus in the 20th week of pregnancy.

Make it illegal to get an abortion based on the sex of the child.

Ban tax credits or exemptions for abortion expenses or for the purchase of supplemental health insurance policies to cover abortion.

Eliminate sales tax exemptions for any drug used in performing or inducing an abortion.

Ban groups that perform abortions from providing materials for human sexuality classes taught in schools.

The bill is one of four abortion-related measures pending in the Legislature.

Kathy Ostrowski, the lobbyist for Kansans for Life, said the bill heard this week is a good step toward protecting the interests of the unborn.

“We think the state can do a lot of good for the child’s parents with these kinds of provisions,” she said.

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