The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

State News

June 25, 2007

Kansas: Key lawmaker to seek new restrictions on late-term abortions



The Associated Press

TOPEKA, Kan.— Frustrated that Dr. George Tiller isn’t being prosecuted over allegations of performing illegal late-term abortions, a key legislator said Monday that he will pursue legislation to impose new restrictions.

Rep. Arlen Siegfreid said he wants to ban all abortions after the 21st week of pregnancy, except to save the life of the mother. Current law restricts late-term abortions, but hundreds still occur every year in Kansas, many when the fetus can survive outside the womb.

Siegfreid, R-Olathe, is chairman of the House Federal and State Affairs Committee, which handles abortion legislation. His concept has the backing of other abortion opponents, including House Speaker Melvin Neufeld, R-Ingalls.

Anti-abortion lawmakers also are hoping that legislative leaders appoint a committee to study late-term abortions. Some remain critical of Attorney General Paul Morrison, an abortion rights Democrat, over how Morrison has handled an investigation into Tiller, of Wichita, who is among the few U.S. doctors who perform late-term abortions.

As about 150 abortion opponents watched, Siegfreid and five other legislators participated in a news conference designed to pressure Morrison into filing criminal charges against Tiller. Morrison plans to announce a decision by Friday.

“I do believe we have a problem with enforcing the late-term abortion law,” Siegfreid said during the news conference. “My personal preference is — and I’m researching the constitutionality of — just banning all abortions after the 21st week in the state of Kansas.”

Responding to the news conference, Morrison spokeswoman Ashley Anstaett said, “The attorney general will not be influenced by political stunts. He is influenced only by the law and the evidence in the case.”

Siegfreid said he intends to have his bill on late-term abortions ready when the Legislature convenes Jan. 14.

State law permits abortions after the 21st week of pregnancy. However, if the fetus is viable, two doctors must conclude that a mother’s life is at risk or that she faces “substantial and irreversible” harm to a “major bodily function” for the procedure to be done. Officials have assumed a major bodily function includes mental health, in keeping with past court decisions on abortion.

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