Kansas, Idaho Advance “Pain-Capable” Fetus Bills


Kansas and Idaho are the latest states to take up bills that would reduce the window of time in which women can obtain an abortion. Last month, we reported that Minnesota lawmakers had introduced a bill that would limit abortions to 20 weeks after conception, based on the (not-scientifically-sound) claim that a fetus can feel pain at that point. That bill was approved in committee, the Minnesota Independent reports, and is expected to advance.

This week, the Kansas legislature passed a similar bill that would ban abortion at 22 weeks, on the same premise that the fetus can feel pain at that point. The law creates an exemption if the abortion is needed to save the life of the mother or if there will be “substantial and irreversible physical impairment of a major bodily function of the pregnant woman”—but explicitly states that the mental or emotional health of the woman doesn’t count. The bill now goes to the desk of Gov. Sam Brownback, a staunch anti-abortion Republican. As the Kansas City Star reports, the state legislature there has repeatedly passed bills that would have made obtaining an abortion in the state much more difficult, but the previous Democratic governor vetoed them. Kansas lawmakers also approved a bill that will require teenagers seeking an abortion to get written consent from both parents before they can do so, as Robin Marty reports at RH Reality Check.

Idaho lawmakers also advanced a bill on Wednesday that sets the “fetal pain” ban at 20 weeks. It was passed out of committee in the state House and will now go to a full vote; it already passed the state Senate. The bills are all similar to one passed in Nebraska last year.

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  • Kate Sheppard was a staff reporter in Mother Jones' Washington bureau from 2009 to 2013. She is now a senior reporter and the energy and environment editor at The Huffington Post. She can be reached by email at kate (dot) sheppard (at) huffingtonpost (dot) com and you can follow her on Twitter @kate_sheppard.