- Associated Press - Thursday, February 19, 2015

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - A proposed ban on a procedure used in 8 percent of the abortions in Kansas advanced Thursday in the state Senate after supporters heatedly responded to a member who suggested they were ignoring good science and trying to inflame public opinion for political gain.

Senators gave first-round approval on a voice vote to a bill that outlaws the dilation and evacuation procedure and redefines it in state law as “dismemberment abortion.” They plan to take a final vote Friday morning to determine whether the measure passes their chamber and goes to the House.

The Senate has a strong anti-abortion majority, and the bill is sponsored by 25 of its 40 members. The proposal was drafted by the National Right to Life Committee as model legislation, and similar proposals are pending in Missouri, Oklahoma and South Dakota.

Kansas already bans most abortions at or after the 22nd week of pregnancy, but the bill would outlaw some earlier in pregnancy. Abortion rights supporters say the targeted procedure is often the safest abortion method in the second trimester and that some first trimester abortions could be banned.

The bill prohibits the use of clamps, forceps or similar instruments on a fetus so the tissue can be removed from the womb, making exceptions if the procedure is necessary to save a woman’s life or prevent serious, irreversible harm to her physical health.

“What the babies go through - and they are babies - it’s unimaginable,” said Sen. Rob Olson, an Olathe Republican, whose voice quavered as he urged colleagues to support the bill.

Sen. David Haley, a Kansas City Democrat who supports abortion rights, decried a potential loss of access to health care for women and said supporters were using inflammatory terms so they could have “a pretty postcard” for campaigns. He chided the bill’s backers for using “unborn child” repeatedly in their proposals, rather than “fetus.”

“I know some of you don’t believe, necessarily, in science,” Haley said.

Several anti-abortion senators pointedly noted Haley’s authorship of a past law against animal cruelty, arguing that human children deserve at least as much protection.

“I don’t know that it’s necessary to insult the intelligence of the chamber for wanting to end a wicked practice,” said Sen. Jake LaTurner, a Pittsburg Republican.

Haley also angered abortion opponents by predicting the state could face a costly lawsuit if it enacts the measure. The attorney general’s office has reported paying nearly $1.2 million to outside attorneys to help defend anti-abortion laws enacted since January 2011.

But supporters of the bill noted that the state has not yet lost a legal challenge to an anti-abortion law. Sen. Steve Fitzgerald, a Leavenworth Republican, said that if cost is an issue, then, “We should have left the death camps in Germany because the cost is too high.”

“Innocent life deserves protection,” Fitzgerald said. “Damn the cost.”

In 2013, the latest year for which data is available from the state health department, the procedure was used in about 600 of the nearly 7,500 abortions in Kansas.

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Online:

Anti-abortion bill: https://bit.ly/1K53VBL

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Follow John Hanna on Twitter at https://twitter.com/apjdhanna .

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