Abortion Notification Bill Advances


By John Celock

Kansas lawmakers have advanced legislation that would increase the amount of information abortion providers would have to disclose to women seeking the procedure.

The state House of Representatives voted 85-38 to give preliminary approval to a bill Wednesday that would require abortion providers to disclose background on their professional careers and state of residency in 12 point Times New Roman font. Supporters said that the measure would increase information available to women prior to receiving an abortion, while opponents described it as a political bill and questioned why it was not expanded to other procedures and why the need for the font requirements. A final vote is expected on Thursday.

“This bill is about transparency and giving women information that is relevant to a medical procedure,” Rep. Susan Humphries (R-Wichita) said. “These women are in a crisis and should have access to information to make an informed decision.”

Under the terms of the bill abortion providers would need to provide the year of their medical degree, how long they have been practicing at the abortion clinic, any disciplinary action from the state Board of Healing Arts, if they have clinical privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the abortion clinic and if they reside in Kansas. Humphries said that this would allow women more information on who the provider is before they go in for the procedure. The current law requires that abortion clinics disclose the name of the provider as part of the women signing the consent form for an abortion.

Humphries said that the requirement for the information to be disclosed in black ink in 12 point Times New Roman font was placed into the bill to allow the information to be better seen by those seeking procedures.

Federal and State Affairs Committee Ranking Minority Member Louis Ruiz (D-Kansas City) questioned why the bill was needed, including the requirement for state of residency. He noted that abortion providers have been among the most heavily scrutinized professions in the state and did not need additional requirements.

Humphries said that disclosure was the key and that women should know if they are seeing a doctor who had a long commute to get to the abortion clinic.

“It is only information and helpful when a woman is choosing a facility,” she said. “If someone is not a resident of Kansas, have they driven three hours to get there? Did they have to drive in this morning.”

Rep. Annie Kuether (D-Topeka) offered an unsuccessful amendment to have the criteria of the bill apply to other medical procedures. She said that if the bill was being pushed for abortion, it should cover procedures including plastic surgery and colonoscopies. House Minority Leader Jim Ward (D-Wichita) said the Kuether amendment would make the bill constitutional.

“This amendment makes this bill more constitutional,” Ward said. “What it says if you believe that what is contained in this bill is important to an informed consent of a patient, then you would expand it.”

Humphries said the Kuether amendment, which failed 41-84, was “overly broad” and questioned whether it would be workable.

Several Democratic lawmakers questioned the constitutionality of the bill, with Rep. Boog Highberger (D-Lawrence) saying that the state could not afford another lawsuit related to abortion. He said that the state has already spent $1 million defending abortion laws.

Rep. John Wilson (D-Lawrence) raised questions about the font requirements, drawing on his professional background as a graphic artist to lead the House in a lesson on the details of graphic design principles and font. He said that the 12 point Times New Roman font dictated by the legislation would not address any issues in terms of conveying the information and outlined other fonts and designs that graphic artists would use to best design a flyer with the information. Wilson offered an unsuccessful amendment to strip the bill of the font requirements.

In addition to discussing graphic design principles, Wilson said that the font requirement was demeaning.

“It is condescending to patients, all of whom are women,” Wilson said. “No woman has said they have had trouble reading the consent forms.”

Humphries said that the requirement would address what she said has been concerns that abortion providers have been putting the information in hard to read font and color in the past. Rep. Chuck Weber (R-Wichita) said the goal was to avoid fine print.

“Have you ever gotten a document with fine print? I have all the time. This is going into this woman’s medical file,” Weber said. “The most important decision she has made up to this point in her life. This about avoiding the fine print and communicating what needs to be communicated.”

Speaker Pro Tempore Scott Schwab (R-Olathe) questioned if Wilson would be moving his font campaign to other areas of state code that dictate 12 point Times New Roman font including newspaper legal notices, insurance documents and banking forms. Wilson said he was not planning a government wide font campaign, noting that each case was different and many of the documents that Schwab was referencing were the only place that the information was provided. He said that abortion patients have other places to access information.

Wilson described the bill as a political issue for Kansans for Life, noting that the group would use the bill to run 2018 postcards to support those who voted for the measure and against those who opposed the measure. Wilson said that if the pro-life group wanted to address a decline in abortions they would take up other issues including promoting new sexual education classes in schools and long term reversible contraception.

Wilson said that the bill would not have an impact.

“If this bill passes, we will not see any safety increases or reduction in the number of abortions,” he said.