Kansas Bans Dismemberment Abortions; Right to Life Hopes It’s the First of 50

My normal course would be to dismember that appendage and then go back and try to take the fetus out whether foot or skull first, whatever end I can get to first.Just pulling and rotation, grasping the portion that you can get hold of which would be usually somewhere up the shaft of the exposed portion of the fetus …” -- Dr. LeRoy Carhart described his procedure for dismemberment abortions in testimony while under oath in the 2000 Stenberg v. Carhart case.

Mary Spaulding Balch, National Right to Life’s director of state legislation, told PJM she is hoping Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback (R) is only the first of 50 governors to sign legislation banning the second-trimester abortion procedure known as “dilation and evacuation,” or “D&E,” which her organization has rebranded as “dismemberment.”

Vicki Saporta, the president and CEO of the National Abortion Federation, told PJM she’s hoping Brownback is the last of the 50 state governors to sign legislation her organization considers to be a “Safe Care Ban.”

National Right to Life drafted the measure approved by the Kansas Legislature as a model for a national effort to ban the D&E procedure, or dismemberment abortions, expect for miscarriages.

“It received overwhelming bipartisan support in Kansas,” Balch said, “and I would expect nothing less than that in the other states. We are taking it one step at a time.”

Balch expects it to become law in Oklahoma next.

Gov. Brownback signed the Unborn Child Protection from Dismemberment Abortion Act on April 8, 3.5 months after it was introduced in the Kansas Legislature.

“It’s ironic that, on World Health Day, Governor Brownback would sign a bill banning the method the World Health Organization considers a superior method of second-trimester abortion care,” said Saporta.

But he did, so abortion providers in Kansas will no longer be able to use clamps, forceps or other instruments to literally rip a fetus apart and pull it from its mother’s womb, as Dr. LeRoy Carhart so graphically described in the Stenberg v. Carhart case.

Carhart, a Nebraska physician who specialized in late-term abortions, wanted a Nebraska law that prohibited partial birth abortions declared unconstitutional.

He filed suit against Nebraska Attorney General Don Stenberg as a means to that end.

A federal district court and the U.S. Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Carhart before the case was appealed to the Supreme Court, which struck down the Nebraska law.

The debate over how much pain a fetus feels continues. Doctors agree the fetal nervous system is pretty much in place in the second and third trimesters, but experts in fetal awareness have disagreed over how much pain the fetus actually feels, even though it is, in essence, being ripped apart.

Beyond the issue of fetal pain, some pro-choice advocates, such as Saporta, point to a World Health Organization report that shows dismemberment or D&E abortions are often the safest method, for the mother, of performing a second-trimester abortion.

But during Kansas Senate debate over the Unborn Child Protection from Dismemberment Abortion Act hardly a word was heard against the proposal.

The best Sen. David Haley (D) could come up with was to argue the word “dismemberment” should be replaced with the word “healthcare.”

“It was clearly demonstrated in the Kansas Senate that the pro-abortion side has no substantive defense for the barbaric abortion procedure of dismembering living, tiny unborn babies with sharp metal tools,” said Kathy Ostrowski, the executive director of Kansans for Life.

Right to Life statistics show that although the number of abortions performed in Kansas has declined over the past several years, the number of dismemberment abortions rose from 584 in 2013 to 639 or 8.8 percent of the 7,263 Kansas abortions reported in 2014.

The National Abortion Federation’s abortion training textbook shows dismemberment abortions account for 96 percent of second-trimester abortions in the nation.

Sponsored by Kansas Sen. Garrett Love (R), the Unborn Child Protection from Dismemberment Abortion Act was the top state legislative priority for National Right to Life’s affiliate, Kansans for Life.

“With the discussion about, and passage of this bill, the public will see that dismemberment abortions brutally – and unacceptably – rip apart small human beings who have all of their internal organs and who have perfectly formed fingers and toes,” Ostrowski said when the legislation was introduced in January.

Brownback, who is scheduled to travel across Kansas for ceremonial signings of the bill on April 28, said he too considers it to be a “horrific procedure” and hopes it is banned nationwide.

Balch said the state-by-state approval of the Unborn Child Protection from Dismemberment Abortion Act is just one more step in the effort to outlaw abortion.

“When abortion textbooks describe in cold, explicit detail exactly how to kill a human being by ripping off arms and legs piece by piece, civilized members of society have no choice but to stand up and demand a change,” said Balch.

That is just what Saporta and the National Abortion Federation are afraid of.

“The health of women should drive medical decisions, not politics,” said Saporta. “This bill is part of an incremental attack to ban abortion care altogether.”