TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) – Kansas legislators approved a new requirement for abortion providers Tuesday that calls for them to disclose doctors’ histories to their patients – and specifies that it be done on white paper in black, 12-point Times New Roman type.
Both supporters and critics of the bill believe it is the first of its kind in the U.S. The measure tightens the state’s longstanding “Right to Know” law already requiring that 24 hours ahead of terminating a pregnancy, abortion providers give women the name of the doctor and information about the risks of the procedure and fetal development. Kansas has fewer than 10 physicians performing abortions for three providers.
Kansas doctors generally are expected to inform their patients of the details and risks associated with medical procedures before patients agree to treatment. But the new requirement for abortion providers is unusual for being so specific in state law – and supporters said it is justified because abortion is fundamentally different from other medical procedures.
Kansas state Sen. Steve Fitzgerald, right, R-Leavenworth, confers with Sen. Molly Baumgardner, R-Louisburg, during a debate on a new disclosure requirement for abortion providers, Tuesday, May 30, 2017, at the Statehouse in Topeka, Kan. Lawmakers have passed the measure, which includes a requirement that patients receive information about doctors performing abortions printed on white paper in black, 12-point Times New Roman type. (AP Photo/John Hanna)
“The nature of abortion is ugly and it’s evil, because it kills a human being,” said Sen. Mary Pilcher-Cook, a conservative Shawnee Republican, one of the Legislature’s most vocal abortion opponents. “We need to give these women, who may be acting under coercion or ignorance, as much protection as possible.”
The Senate voted 25-15 in favor of the measure, sending it to Republican Gov. Sam Brownback, a strong abortion opponent who has signed every anti-abortion measure lawmakers have sent him since he took office in 2011. The House had approved the bill last week.
In 2015, Kansas also enacted the nation’s first ban on a common second-trimester procedure , describing it in law as “dismemberment abortion.” A legal challenge followed, and the Kansas Supreme Court is considering whether state courts can invalidate regulations under the Kansas Constitution that have been or might be upheld by the federal courts.
Under the new disclosure requirement, the abortion providers would have to give women printed information that includes a doctor’s credentials and start date at the provider’s clinic, and whether the doctor has malpractice insurance and privileges at a nearby hospital. The provider also would have to disclose the doctor’s disciplinary record, malpractice lawsuits, state of residency and medical school.
Supporters of the bill said they are trying to ensure that abortion providers don’t skirt the state’s informed consent requirements with unreadable forms. They defended the font requirement as something that’s a routine rule for college students on academic papers. The Times New Roman font is commonly found on computers.
But Sen. Lynn Rogers, a Wichita Democrat, described the measure as “simply harassment” of abortion providers. Others saw the measure as an attempt to discourage women from having abortions.
Women often print out the informed-consent forms themselves at home before traveling to a clinic to terminate their pregnancies, abortion rights supporters said, and if they use the wrong color of paper they would have to reschedule their appointments.
Also, the Legislature has printed its bills in smaller 10-point type for at least several decades.
“We should not ask to have someone provide something in a larger font than we provide the information to ourselves and our constituents on bills that are very important,” said Sen. Marci Francisco, a Lawrence Democrat.
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