Kansas legislature enacts four pro-life bills over governor’s vetoes  — By: Catholic News Agency

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CNA Staff, May 1, 2024 / 05:30 am (CNA).

Kansas state legislators enacted four pro-life bills over the abortion-supporting governor’s vetoes but didn’t enact a bill that would have banned gender transitioning for children. 

The abortion measures provide $2 million in state funding for pro-life crisis pregnancy centers, provide tax credits designed to encourage more donations to such centers, require abortion facilities to ask women why they are having an abortion, and create a new crime of coercing a woman to have an abortion. 

Supporters put together the necessary two-thirds majorities to override the vetoes of Governor Laura Kelly, a Democrat who supports legal abortion. 

Crafters of the pro-life bills acknowledge that abortion is legally considered a fundamental right in Kansas, since the state’s supreme court declared that in April 2019 and the state’s voters in August 2022 rejected a proposed constitutional amendment that would have flipped the court’s decision. 

Therefore, the bills enacted Monday do not attempt to restrict abortion, but instead try to encourage women to choose life, said Chuck Weber, executive director of the Kansas Catholic Conference, which represents bishops in the state’s four dioceses on political and public policy matters. 

“The abortion industry seems to want women to abort every baby that’s an unplanned pregnancy. Can we not at least give women in an unplanned pregnancy an authentic choice besides abortion?” Weber said in a telephone interview with CNA. 

Planned Parenthood Great Plains Votes, a political action committee that advocates for abortion in Kansas, Missouri, Arkansas, and Oklahoma, opposed the measures. The give-a-reason and abortion coercion bills “directly interfere with the bodily autonomy of Kansans and their fundamental right to make their own decision about health care,” the organization said in a written statement after Governor Kelly vetoed the bills April 12. 

“These stigmatizing bills were not crafted to improve the health and well-being of Kansans; they were merely meant to shame reproductive care,” said Emily Wales, president and chief executive officer of Planned Parenthood Great Plains Votes. 

The give-a-reason bill would result in “invasive and unnecessary questions,” she said. 

But Weber told CNA the point of the bill is to help figure out how to help pregnant women choose to give birth if they wish. 

“The more data we have about why a woman chooses abortion will allow policymakers and social service agencies to help women to make an authentic choice for life if that’s what she chooses to do,” Weber said. 

The abortion coercion bill “could further hurt or retraumatize survivors,” Wales said. 

But Weber said the bill is meant to determine if women seeking an abortion are victims of sex trafficking or other kinds of coercion. 

One of the abortion bills allows donors to crisis pregnancy centers a tax credit of 70% of what they give, with a total statewide cap of $10 million. It also gives a sales tax exemption for crisis pregnancy centers. 

“They’re the front line,” Lucrecia Nold, policy specialist of the Kansas Catholic Conference, said of crisis pregnancy centers. “So let’s give them all of the resources that are available so that we can help these women.” 

The bill also encourages adoption, by offering a state adoption tax credit that matches the already-existing federal adoption tax credit and by allowing would-be adoptive parents to create an adoption savings account. 

An effort to override the governor’s veto of a bill that would have banned gender transitioning for minors failed by two votes, when two Republican state legislators flipped at the last minute. 

Opponents of the bill argue that parents and children should decide whether a child who identifies with a gender other than the one that corresponds to the child’s sex should seek to transition. 

But supporters say children should be protected from such transitioning, which they argue is harmful and may have permanent consequences. 

Weber said supporters of the gender-transitioning ban will try again next legislative session. 

“We’re going to continue to try to protect the children of Kansas from these life-changing, life-destructive practices that are both surgical and chemical,” Weber said. 

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