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Proposal to ban abortion in Kansas splits pro-life groups

TOPEKA — A group of abortion opponents is pushing for a state constitutional amendment banning the procedure in Kansas.

The chairman of a Valley Center, Kan., organization said Friday it has support from 25 House members for a bill that would let voters decide whether to ban abortion in the state.

“The Kansas Bill of Rights recognizes that all men are possessed of equal and inalienable natural rights, including life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” the group, Personhood Kansas, posted on its website Friday. “This amendment will ensure that — regardless of one’s age — these rights are not denied to any person.”

The group’s leader said the goal wasn’t to force a showdown over the landmark Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion, although he said their amendment, if successful, would likely end up in court.

Bruce Garren maintained the public wants a voice on the issue and he has collected thousands of petition signatures to aid the cause with lawmakers.

“Our goal is to end abortion in Kansas,” Garren said. “I am not sure they know there are people out there who want this on the ballot.”

The bill is expected to be introduced by state Rep. Randy Garber, a Sabetha Republican who was first elected in 2010 and has supported other restrictions on abortion.

Garber could not be reached for comment late Friday afternoon. But the bill would need support from two-thirds of the Senate and the House to get on the ballot.

Kari Ann Rinker, state coordinator for the Kansas Organization for Women, called the proposal “extreme.” Although the bill hasn’t been finalized, she expected the legislation to look like so-called “personhood amendments” that have been considered in other states such as Mississippi, where voters recently defeated a similar initiative.

“We just wish the 2012 Legislature would spend time searching for a solution to the job problem and not create abortion problems,” Rinker said.

The bill follows several recent efforts in the Kansas Legislature to restrict abortion. The election of Republican Gov. Sam Brownback, a staunch abortion opponent, cleared the way for the Legislature to pass several such laws last year. Three are now being challenged in court.

Last year, the Legislature passed laws that shut the door on late-term abortion and required parental consent for minors obtaining an abortion. It also stripped Planned Parenthood of federal family planning funds and set up new health regulations for abortion clinics.

Not all abortion opponents favor such an amendment.

Mary Kay Culp, executive director of Kansans for Life, said she’s afraid of pushing the issue to the U.S. Supreme Court. She feared the court could reaffirm the legality of abortion given its current makeup. Culp said abortion foes already have won a number of legislative victories that she thinks are effective and will ultimately be upheld in court.

“Therefore, we do not and cannot recommend a Kansas Personhood Initiative, nor a similar provision known as the Heartbeat Bill, nor do we consider support or opposition of these initiatives as an indication that an individual or a candidate is pro-life,” Culp said in a statement issued late Friday.