KS House passes protections for infants ‘born alive’ in abortion. Experts say it doesn’t happen

The Kansas House Wednesday passed a bill that requires physicians to care for infants born alive during an abortion, despite no evidence this has happened in Kansas in decades.

The chamber voted 88 to 34 to approve the “born alive” bill and send it to the state Senate. Similar legislation has been pursued at the federal level and in Republican-led statehouses nationwide.

Five Democrats joined Republicans to support the bill, which is one of several measures pushed this year by anti-abortion groups in the wake of last year’s landslide vote to retain abortion rights in the state.

Proponents framed the bill as a commonsense measure designed to protect infants who are accidentally born in the course of an abortion. Two Republicans, Rep. Ron Bryce from Coffeyville and Rep. John Eplee from Abilene, referenced cases in the 1970s and 1980s where, early in their medical careers, they said they had seen infants left to die after surviving an abortion.

A federal law passed in 2002 already mandates care but the Kansas bill would add new criminal penalties at the state level.

“We’re talking about human life here folks,” Eplee said. “This bill is our best attempt to provide guidelines, guardrails with practitioners that we do as much as we can.”

The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology said that is not something that happens in abortion care — in late-term abortion an injection is used to stop an infant’s heartbeat before performing the abortion. There have been no reported cases in Kansas recently.

“This absolutely does not actually happen in real life,” said Dr. Kristyn Brandi from ACOG.

But proponents say the bill is essentially to finding out whether and when it happens. The law, they say is vague as to whether existing laws against infanticide and child endangerment would apply in the situation.

“The penalties are very important because it’s a deterrent,” said Jeanne Gawdun, a lobbyist for Kansans for Life, the state’s largest anti-abortion group.

Opponents said the bill was unnecessary, and would rip decision making away from physicians and patients in vulnerable situations. The most likely scenario for an infant to be born alive would be in a very late term pregnancy which is exceedingly rare in Kansas where abortions are illegal at or after 22 weeks.

In those cases, the health of the mother is at risk or the infant is suffering a fatal abnormality.

“I know people like to save the baby but unfortunately I believe when these unforeseen outcomes happen in an abortion it is not a viable pregnancy or a viable baby,” said Rep. Melissa Oropeza, a Kansas City Democrat.

She urged her colleagues to respect the message from Kansas voters to keep politics out of health care.

This story has been updated to clarify the number of Democrats who voted in favor of the bill.