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Brownback Signs Bill Adding Abortion Information Requirements

Meg Wingerter
Kansas News Service
Gov. Sam Brownback holds a signing ceremony Wednesday for a bill that enacts additional information requirements for abortion providers. To the left are Rep. John Eplee, Sen. Dennis Pyle and Sen. Robert Olson of the Kansas Legislature.

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback signed a bill Wednesday morning requiring abortion providers to give patients information listing their credentials, any disciplinary actions meted out against them and whether they have malpractice insurance.

The bill also requires the information to be provided at least 24 hours before a procedure and printed on white paper in black 12-point, Times New Roman font.

Supporters of the Senate Bill 83, called the Disclose Act, say the latter requirements are needed to make the information readable — although the Legislature itself prints its documents in 10-point type. 

At a Statehouse signing ceremony, Brownback said the bill, which amends the 1997 Woman’s Right to Know Act and is thought to be the first of its kind in the nation, was a safety measure aimed at allowing women to make informed decisions about their providers.

“The dignity of life and inherent right to life is shared by all people, all people, both born and unborn,” Brownback said. “The complexity surrounding countless crisis pregnancies are many and varied. Too often women are led to believe that abortion is their only option when it clearly is not.”

Brownback said the measure was the 19th “pro-life” bill he has signed as governor.

“I don’t know anybody in the country that has that kind of privilege that I have of being able to do that,” he said.

Laura McQuade, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Great Plains, one of three abortion providers in the state, released a statement denouncing the law as unfairly targeting abortion providers.

“Once again, Gov. Brownback is exploiting women’s access to safe, legal abortion as a distraction from his failed leadership,” McQuade said.

McQuade noted that Brownback signed the bill just hours after lawmakers voted to override his veto of a tax reform measure that would raise $1.2 billion over two years.

“While we evaluate all of our legal options against SB 83, we join the rest of Kansas in celebrating the end of Brownback’s failed tax experiment and moving Kansas in the right economic direction,” McQuade said, referring to Brownback’s signature 2012 tax cuts.

Kansas has enacted some of the most stringent abortion restrictions in the nation. Among other measures, it allows insurance policies for state employees to cover abortions only in cases where the life of the mother is endangered; requires parental consent for minors seeking abortions; requires women to undergo ultrasounds and be given the option of viewing the image before obtaining an abortion; and bars abortions after 20 weeks unless the life of the mother is endangered or her health severely compromised.

In 2015, the state banned a common second-trimester procedure. The law was challenged by two Overland Park abortion providers and in January 2016 the Kansas Court of Appeals, in a 7-7 decision, blocked it, finding that the Kansas Constitution’s Bill of Rights provides a right to abortion. The state has since appealed to the Kansas Supreme Court, which is expected to hand down its decision soon. 

Kathy Ostrowski, state legislative director of Kansans for Life, which pushed for the Disclose Act, said there was nothing burdensome about the law.

Speaking after Brownback at the signing ceremony, she called it “a little bit of data entry” that “a woman should have at her fingertips.”

Dan Margolies is editor in charge of health news at KCUR, the public radio station in Kansas City. Dan joined KCUR in April 2014. In a long and varied journalism career, he has worked as a reporter for the Kansas City Business Journal, The Kansas City Star and Reuters. In a previous life, he was a lawyer. He has also worked as a media insurance underwriter and project development director for a video production firm.