Kansas Governor Sam Brownback, a Republican who has drawn national attention for signing several landmark conservative bills into law in his state, has just passed an abortion bill that will restrict many second-trimester abortions. Although the vast majority of abortions are performed within the first twelve weeks of pregnancy, the law disallows doctors the use of the most common method of administering second-term abortions.
Kansas Governor Sam Brownback pictured in 2012 – Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images
This new legislation will affect approximately one out of every ten Kansas women seeking abortions — those who have an abortion after the first trimester. During the first trimester, the fetus typically can be safely removed with the common vacuum technique. However, after the first trimester, abortions are usually done by dilation and evacuation, which is now illegal in Kansas.
The outlawed technique, referred to as “dismemberment abortion” by pro-lifers, is an outpatient procedure that involves removing the fetus with forceps, a potentially gory process that could split the fetus into pieces during the removal.
With the passage of this law, called The Unborn Child Protection From Dismemberment Abortion Act, Kansas becomes the state with the most restrictions involving abortion. A doctor who chooses to continue carrying out dilation and evacuation procedures risks a misdemeanor on the first offense and a felony on the second.
Women in Kansas that want to get an abortion after the first trimester will still have options. However, these alternatives are often considered more dangerous, as they involve medications that may not affect every woman equally and safely. The lack of proven alternatives could pose a judicial issue for the law, as the Supreme Court has determined that women can have abortions up until their fetus could survive outside the womb.
States are allowed to narrow abortion rights only to a certain extent, which means that banning the dilation and evacuation technique could ultimately be found unconstitutional. Given the passion on both sides of the abortion argument, it is almost inevitable that pro-choice forces will rally to sue the state over the law. Meanwhile, the pro-life movement has won a significant victory for its cause, one that could have a ripple effect into other states considering passing similar legislation.