The Kansas Legislature adjourned for the year in the wee hours of Monday morning, with two big victories in the area of pro-life healthcare. UPDATE, May 13: Gov. Brownback signed both measures into law this week.
Disappointingly, the time clock hurt us on achieving Simon’s Law, which will be explained further on in this post.
Senate Bill 248, formerly SB 436 (KFL testimony here) was enacted late Sunday evening. It enacts, as permanent law, the “Huelskamp-Kinzer” language prioritizing Title X federal reproductive health money to full-service public health clinics.
Planned Parenthood hates this mechanism because they do not qualify as full-service and it’s a big chunk of Kansas money they no longer get. Planned Parenthood filed a legal challenge against the prioritization but lost in federal appeals court. Title X Kansas funding now surpasses the pre-litigation level.
Huelskamp-Kinzer language is a model way for states to improve healthcare for the indigent, by funneling Title X money to comprehensive services at “safety net” clinics and public hospitals.
State Sen. Caryn Tyson (R- Parker) carried the bill and Sen. Ty Masterson (R-Andover) shepherded it to completion. The vote was 87-34 in the House and 32-8 in the Senate.
MIDWIVES’ ROLE IN ABORTION STOPPED
Kansas passed a large bill, HB 2615, with a number of sections regulating health care services and providers. The section governing the independent practice of midwives includes pro-life language:
“Nothing in the independent practice of midwifery act should be construed to authorize a certified nurse-midwife engaging in the independent practice of midwifery under such act to perform, induce or prescribe drugs for an abortion.”
There was quite a bit of educating to do on this subject as some legislators just didn’t want to believe that nurse midwives– those most intimately dedicated to nurturing labor and delivery– would actually do abortions. Yet the National Abortion Federation has long had a strategy for increasing “access to abortion” (i.e. more babies aborted) by expanding the scope of practice of lower level health care professionals. Read more on this topic, including a memo from National Right to Life Director of State Legislation, Mary Spaulding Balch, J.D. here.
Sen. Sen. Michael O’Donnell (R-Wichita) and Sen. Mary Pilcher Cook (R-Shawnee) were real champions on insuring the abortion ban stayed with the midwives’ regulation. The House passed the final healthcare bill 115-7, but only after Senators voted 26-12 to insure that the final version kept the pro-life language.
TIME CRUNCH HURT SIMON’s LAW
This year’s Kansas legislature was dominated by a budget crisis, and in an unprecedented move, leadership cancelled two weeks of legislative session time. This really doomed House consideration of Simon’s Law, despite heroic
attempts by bill sponsor, Sen. Jacob LaTurner (R-Pittsburg), vice-chair of the Senate Federal & State Affairs committee, and Rep. Jan Pauls (R-Hutchinson), Chair of the House Federal & State Affairs committee, to maneuver it to get a House vote.
Simon’s Law is a vital bill to protect parental rights in preventing the unilateral issuance of Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) for minors. The measure has gained tremendous public enthusiasm, and secured an amazing 37-3 bipartisan vote in the Kansas Senate. With support of pediatric specialists across the country and four pro-life medical groups, Kansas ought to be enacting Simon’s Law next year.
Lest too rosy a picture be painted about Simon’s Law, however, it must be noted that not one Kansas medical facility or physician group officially testified about the measure—pro, con or neutral—and many well-paid medical lobbyists out of the public eye pushed to kill the bill. Apparently, the current ability to issue DNRs unilaterally is sadly a power that too many medical entities do not want brokered by parents.
The movement to educate the public about discrimination in life-sustaining procedures has just begun and the entire nation needs Simon’s Law.