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Kansas bans dismemberment abortions

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback Associated Press/Photo by Orlin Wagner

Kansas bans dismemberment abortions

Abortionists in Kansas will soon be banned from performing dismemberment abortions, thanks to legislation passed by the state legislature Wednesday.

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback promised in January he would sign the bill, making the state the first to ban abortions that tear children limb-from-limb in the womb. The federal government already criminalizes partial birth abortions, but dismemberment abortions—also known as dilation and evacuation abortions—are still legal. The legislation is part of a new strategy pioneered by National Right to Life Committee (NRLC). Kansans for Life (KFL) promoted the bill based on NRLC’s model legislation.

“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,” KFL’s legislative director Kathy Ostrowski said.

About 8 percent of abortions in Kansas use the dilation and evacuation method. The new law now prohibits it except in cases threatening the mother’s life or irreversibly damaging her health. Dismemberment abortions occur after the first trimester when bones have already formed.

“Civilized members of society have no choice but to stand up and demand a change," said NRLC Legislative Director Mary Spaulding Balch. “When you think it can’t be uglier, the abortion industry continues to shock with violent methods of abortion.”

Abortion rights advocates argued the procedure is sometimes the safest method and insisted the law would inhibit liberty. But Balch noted those arguments forget a key party in the discussion: the baby.

“When the national debate focuses only on the mother, it is forgetting someone,” Balch said. “The groundbreaking passage by the Kansas legislature … has the potential to transform the debate when people realize that living unborn children are being killed by being torn limb-from-limb.”

Most Americans don’t know that dismemberment abortions are standard for second trimester abortions, Balch said in January. Because the baby’s skeleton is formed, abortionists can’t use aspiration abortions, which vacuum babies out of the womb. Instead, they must tear babies apart to remove them. Once the pieces are outside the womb, abortionists must re-assemble all the pieces to ensure the womb is empty—giving the method the nickname “jigsaw puzzle procedure.”

Pro-life leaders hope the Kansas law will help raise the public’s awareness about second-trimester abortions, especially if the law lands in court. NRLC leaders think it has a good chance of appearing before the U.S. Supreme Court, where two justices have already expressed their disgust for dismemberment abortions.

In the 2007 opinion on Gonzales v. Carhart, which upheld the partial-birth abortion ban, Justice Anthony Kennedy said dismemberment abortions are “laden with the power to devalue human life.” Even staunchly pro-abortion Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg voiced her disapproval in her dissenting opinion on the case, Balch said.

Kansas isn’t the only state to introduce the ban. Oklahoma’s House passed a similar bill, and the Senate will debate it next week. Lawmakers in Missouri and South Carolina also have also introduced dismemberment abortion ban legislation.

And Kansas pro-lifers aren’t stopping with this success: Other legislators indicated Wednesday they want to prohibit abortions after a fetal heart beat is detected. Kansas Coalition for Life also is working to pass another bill that bans aspiration abortions.

“We look at Kansas as a leader in the pro-life movement,” dismemberment bill sponsor Sen. Garrett Love said earlier this year.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Courtney Crandell Courtney is a former WORLD correspondent.

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