Kansas has new abortion laws while Louisiana may block exceptions to its ban

TOPEKA, Kan. — Kansas is requiring abortion providers to share new patient information with the state and increasing funds to anti-abortion centers, while in Louisiana bills to loosen its restrictive ban face an uphill battle, thanks to Republican supermajorities in both Legislatures.

Democratic lawmakers in Louisiana are pushing bills to add exceptions, including in cases of rape and incest, to the state’s near-total abortion ban. A GOP-dominated House committee began its review of those measures Tuesday, but similar proposals failed last year.

Meanwhile in Kansas, the GOP-controlled Legislature on Monday overrode all four of Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly’s vetoes of measures sought by anti-abortion groups. Starting July 1, abortion providers must ask patients why they are terminating their pregnancies and report the answers to the state, and it will be a specific crime to coerce someone into having an abortion.

Kansas also will offer both direct aid to anti-abortion centers and tax breaks for them and their donors. The aim of anti-abortion centers is to dissuade people from getting abortions while offering supplies, classes and other services.

Anti-abortion groups still exert a strong influence over Republicans in statehouses across the U.S. That’s even after votes on ballot initiatives in multiple states demonstrated public support for abortion rights following the U.S. Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision in 2022 — with the first one in Kansas in August 2022.

“We did not put this to bed,” Kansas Senate Democratic Leader Dinah Sykes said Tuesday. “Those people who showed up to vote who had not voted before need to show up in November to vote.”

The two states, nearly 400 miles (700 kilometers) apart, have dramatically different abortion laws because of their top courts. In August 2022, just months after Dobbs, Louisiana Supreme Court rejected a legal challenge to that state’s near-total abortion ban, allowing the prohibition to go into effect. That was 10 days after Kansas voters decisively affirmed the position in a 2019 state Supreme Court ruling that the state constitution protects abortion rights.

Kansas doesn’t ban most abortions until the 22nd week of pregnancy. Kelly is a strong supporter of abortion rights and has consistently vetoed the GOP-controlled Legislature’s abortion measures.

She is expected to veto a fifth measure sought by abortion opponents, a bill aimed at ensuring that judges order child support payments apply to fetuses so that the mother’s pregnancy expenses are covered. It would be similar to a Georgia law.

Critics believe the Kansas child support measure advances the anti-abortion movement’s long-standing goal of giving embryos and fetuses legal and constitutional protections on par with those of the people carrying them. There are dozens of proposals in at least 15 states aimed at promoting fetal rights, though most have not advanced, according to an Associated Press analysis earlier this year using the bill-tracking software Plural.

“If we’re going to say that fetuses now have legal rights, that is going to affect downstream a whole bunch of other things,” state Sen. Ethan Corson, a Kansas City-area Democrat, said before the measure passed last week.

But Kansas has had a law in place since 2007 that allows people to face separate charges for what it considers crimes against fetuses, and a 2013 state law declares that “unborn children have interests in life, health and well-being,” though it isn’t enforced as a limit on abortion.

The child support bill wouldn’t change state policy on the legal status of fetuses, said Kansas Senate Judiciary Chair Kellie Warren, a Kansas City-area Republican.

“The real impact of this bill is helping women,” she said.

Abortion opponents also have touted the other measures as helping pregnant women and girls, in part by gathering better data about abortion so lawmakers can set clearer policy.

One measure continues to give $2 million a year in direct aid to anti-abortion centers that provide free supplies and services. Another exempts them from paying the state’s 6.5% sales tax on what they buy and gives their donors a state income tax credit.

Kansans for Life, the state’s most influential anti-abortion group said in a statement Monday that the measures “seek to meet Kansans where they are and save as many lives as possible.”

Meanwhile, many Republicans reject the argument that the August 2022 vote means Kansas voters expect lawmakers to stop regulating abortion.

“I think most Kansans would agree that we did want certain safeguards,” said GOP state Sen. Renee Erickson, of Wichita.

Louisiana’s only exceptions to its abortion ban are when there is substantial risk of death or impairment to the patient in continuing a pregnancy and when the fetus has a fatal abnormality that makes a pregnancy “medically futile.”

Earlier this year, lawmakers rejected an effort to let voters decide whether abortions should be legal in Louisiana. The legislation proposed an amendment to Louisiana’s Constitution to enshrine reproductive rights for women, including access to birth control, abortion and infertility treatments.

Public opinion polls nationwide and some in Louisiana as reported by the The Times-Picayune/The New Orleans Advocate, have found that the majority oppose the most restrictive bans.

During the Louisiana House committee’s first review Tuesday of bills adding new exceptions, Democrats shed tears and raised their voices in pleading for exceptions to the current law for rape and incest.

Democratic state Rep. Alonzo Knox, of New Orleans, questioned why young girls “who have been violated in the most unfathomable way” should be forced to give birth and be repeatedly traumatized by the experience.

“Not only that, she gives birth to a child that she has no knowledge or education about how to care for,” he added.

The committee expects to take a vote next week. Sponsoring state Rep. Delisha Boyd, another New Orleans Democrat, said she will try to sit down with Republican lawmakers and GOP Gov. Jeff Landry to see whether she can amend the bill to increase its chances of passage.

Landry, elected last year, replaced term-limited Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards, who supported some abortion restrictions but was a vocal backer of some exceptions.


Cline reported from Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

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