Kansas Republicans introduce new anti-abortion bills

Kansas lawmakers introduced legislation to require prison time for coercing a pregnant person into getting an abortion and to mandate ultrasounds before terminating a pregnancy.

TOPEKA — House and Senate Republicans — in their latest attempts to weaken the state’s constitutional right to bodily autonomy — have introduced legislation to require prison time for coercing a pregnant person into getting an abortion and to mandate ultrasounds before terminating a pregnancy.

House Bill 2813 and Senate Bill 527 would create the felony crime of “coercion to obtain an abortion,” which means convincing someone to get an abortion by threatening physical of financial harm, threatening deportation, destroying or hiding a passport, or controlling medications.

House Bill 2814 and Senate Bill 528 would create the Kansas Ultrasound Act, requiring an obstetric ultrasound to be performed before having an abortion.

The bills are the latest in a long line to be introduced following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in June 2022 to overturn Roe v. Wade, which gave states authority over reproductive health care, and the August 2022 vote in Kansas to preserve access to abortion.

The Kansas Supreme Court in 2019 determined the state constitution’s right to bodily autonomy extends to the decision to terminate a pregnancy, and set a high standard for justifying restrictions. A state court last year blocked enforcement of long-standing restrictions, including an ultrasound requirement.

The new legislation to mandate ultrasounds would allow “a woman to avert her eyes from such images.”

“The voters spoke. The courts ruled. And still, extremist politicians are hellbent on interfering in private medical decisions,” said Anamarie Rebori Simmons, spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood Great Plains Votes. “The ultrasound proposal does nothing but double down on an unconstitutional law, and the coercion bill creates a false narrative. Medical providers are listening to patients in a way the Legislature never has. The true source of coercion — in the form of scare tactics, nonmedical requirements, and taxpayer dollars sent to misleading anti-abortion facilities — is under the Capitol dome.”

Sen. Kristen O’Shea, R-Topeka, introduced the Senate version of the bills, although they are officially attributed to the Federal and State Affairs Committee. In the House, Rep. Rebecca Schmoe, R-Ottawa, introduced the “coercion” bill, and Rep. Leah Howell, R-Derby, introduced the ultrasound bill at the request of anti-abortion groups Kansans for Life and Kansas Family Voice.

Jeanne Gawdun, director of government relations for Kansans for Life, said the ultrasound bill is narrowly tailored “to protect a woman from the dangers of an undetected ectopic pregnancy that could be life-threatening without an ultrasound to discover it, chemical abortion pills being administered to her late in pregnancy, and other safety risks.”

She also said everyone should agree that “every woman in Kansas should have protection from being coerced into an abortion.”

The proposed legislation creates a felony crime for “engaging in coercion with knowledge that a woman is pregnant and with the intent to compel such woman to obtain an abortion when such woman has expressed her desire to not obtain an abortion.”

The bill would require at least 30 days and no more than 1 year in prison, along with a fine of $500 to $5,000. If the crime is committed by a father who is older than 18 and the pregnant individual is younger than 18, the minimum prison time is 90 days and the fine ranges from $1,000 to $10,000.

The ultrasound bill would require a physician to display images and describe the “dimensions of the embryo or fetus” and the presence of internal and external organs. The physician also must offer “a sonogram picture of her unborn child” at no additional cost.

Physicians who fail to comply with the bill would be guilty of a felony crime, and subject to civil lawsuits by a father who is married to the pregnant person at the time of the abortion.