The Kansas House joined forces with Senate colleagues following a meandering and bizarre three-hour debate Tuesday by voting to adopt a resolution condemning passage by New York politicians of a law expanding women's access to abortion.
Routine consideration of the nonbinding resolution was shattered by a flurry of amendments from House Democrats highlighting frustration with pace of debate, dictated by Republicans, on Kansas education funding, food sales tax and Medicaid expansion as well as proposals on detention of immigrant children and adultery by legislators. Several proposed amendments made reference to state legislators wasting time with pointless resolutions.
All eight of the Democrats' amendments to Senate Concurrent Resolution 1606 were ruled out of order. The resolution passed 78-5 with 32 House members voting "present" in protest. In February, the New York abortion resolution cleared the Senate 27-13 with far less theatrical flair.
Under the New York law, a woman could obtain an abortion past 24 weeks of pregnancy if the procedure was necessary to protect her life or health. The Kansas resolution criticized New Yorkers for a celebration about passage of the law that included turning on pink lights on Freedom Tower.
"This resolution is about protecting women and children. On that, I think we all agree," said Rep. Renee Erickson, the Wichita Republican who led advocacy for the resolution on the House floor.
House Democrats appeared content with sending a messages of frustration with the political process at the Capitol and the decision by GOP leadership to vote on the abortion resolution.
"We're not here to talk about or worry about what people do in other states. That's not what we were elected to do," said House Minority Leader Tom Sawyer, D-Wichita. "We're sending a resolution to the state of New York where they're going to totally ignore it. Our job is to fix problems in Kansas."
Meanwhile, the House Health and Human Services Committee voted Tuesday to approve House Bill 2274 requiring Kansas clinics to notify women in writing as well as by telephone or in person that a medication abortion could be halted -- in some cases -- if the person had second thoughts midway through the process.
The Kansas notice bill and the New York resolution were priorities of Kansans for Life, one of the state's anti-abortion organizations.
Rep. John Eplee, R-Atchison, said lawmakers in five states adopted comparable notification legislation regarding intervention in a medication-induced abortion.
"It's been a bit of a labor of love here," said Eplee, a physician who believes available intervention protocol to be safe. "It works much of the time. Not 100 percent of the time."
However, Julie Burkhart, founder and chief executive officer of Trust Women, said the bill would require doctors to tell their patients the medication abortion process could be reversed when there were no peer-reviewed scientific studies proving the practice endorsed by anti-choice lawmakers was safe or beneficial to women's health.
"They seek to make women into guinea pigs to further their political cause of making abortion inaccessible," Burkhart said.
The back-to-back abortion votes occurred while the Kansas Supreme Court considers whether the Kansas Constitution protected abortion rights in a lawsuit threatening to upend nearly a decade’s worth of abortion restrictions and stymie new ones in the state.
The barrage of amendments to the New York resolution inspired protests from Republicans and Democrats, but for different reasons.
Rep. Elizabeth, a Wichita Democrat, shared with House colleagues that she had an abortion that saved her life. She went on to have two boys and regarded the decision about an abortion a private matter between a doctor and patient that didn't necessitate intrusion by politicians.
Rep. Brett Parker, D-Overland Park, wrote an $88 check reimbursing the state government for compensation he was to receive for the day. He said the GOP was content to "waste time and tax dollars on this meaningless debate, but I am not."
"Schools underfunded, Medicaid not expanded, foster care crisis and a prison emergency, but we’re wasting time debating toothless resolutions so KFL can send political attack mail. Shame on us," Parker said.
House Majority Leader Dan Hawkins, R-Wichita, said amendments to the resolution drafted by Democrats were designed to distract attention and dilute the message New York lawmakers must hear from their peers in Kansas. In the GOP-led House, Republicans voted to sustain the leadership's preference that adjustments to the resolution should be dismissed because they weren't germane.
"Our GOP caucus is firmly opposing each move they make to deny the reality that our duty is to protect innocent life," Hawkins said.