March 27, 2013

Kansas moves to block tax breaks for providers

A Senate bill is designed to prevent the state from subsidizing the procedure even indirectly.

The Associated Press

TOPEKA, Kan. - Kansas legislators are moving to block tax breaks for abortion providers and prohibit their involvement in public schools' sex education classes, but some lawmakers pushed Tuesday to ban most abortions, even early in pregnancy.

A bill up for debate in the Senate this week would not only keep abortion providers from claiming a wide range of tax exemptions and credits, it would bar them from providing sex education materials and instructors to public schools.

It would spell out in greater detail what information doctors have to provide patients before performing abortions and declare that life begins "at fertilization" and that "unborn children" have interests "that should be protected."

Abortion opponents consider the bill comprehensive, and abortion-rights advocates believe enacting it would make it significantly more difficult for women to terminate pregnancies. It already passed the House and if senators make no changes, their approval would send it to Republican Gov. Sam Brownback, a strong abortion opponent.

But some Kansas legislators want to prohibit most abortions after a doctor can detect a fetal heartbeat, something that can occur as early as the sixth week of pregnancy. The House Federal and State Affairs Committee had a hearing on such a measure Tuesday.

The Kansas House committee hearing came the same day North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple signed a ban on such abortions into law. But in Kansas, abortion opponents are split over tactics, and it's not clear how far a fetal heartbeat bill will advance.

"I don't know what it hurts to wait a year," said Kansas House committee Chairman Arlen Siegfreid, an Olathe Republican who opposes abortion.

The bill before the Kansas Senate is designed to prevent the state from subsidizing abortions even indirectly. For example, a woman who had an abortion couldn't include the costs if she deducts medical expenses from her income for tax purposes, and an abortion provider could not claim the same exemption from the state sales tax on what it purchases that other health care providers receive.

Kansas law already bans most abortions starting with the 22nd week of pregnancy, requires doctors to notify parents or guardians in writing before performing abortions for minors and restricts private health insurance coverage for elective abortions. Health and safety requirements imposed specifically for abortion providers in 2011 are being challenged in state court.

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