Kansas House committee advances legislation to protect infants ‘born alive’

Republican chairwoman says abortion shouldn’t be normalized as a way of life

By: - March 8, 2023 5:22 pm
Lawmakers vote to pass legislation funding abortion alternative programs. (Rachel Mipro/Kansas Reflector)

Lawmakers vote to pass legislation funding abortion alternative programs during a hearing March 8, 2023. (Rachel Mipro/Kansas Reflector)

TOPEKA — Rep. Ron Bryce, a Coffeyville Republican, was a Texas medical resident in the late ’80s when he was called into an operating room and found a premature baby boy who survived his mother’s attempted abortion.

Bryce said he picked up the infant and brought him to the neonatal infant care unit.

“As I stared down on his frail body, I had the impression that the entire universe was revolving around this one human being at that point in my life,” Bryce said. 

The infant later died. Bryce said he didn’t know the background of the case and hadn’t talked to the mother, but he was told by nurses after the incident that this was a failed abortion case.

He gave this story to illustrate the importance of a proposed “born alive” bill, House Bill 2313.

The House Health and Human Services Committee held a hearing on the bill Wednesday with only supporters testifying, then passed the bill. The legislation is similar to other bills discussed nationally and in other states.

HB 2313 gives legal protections and stipulates legal requirements for fetuses “born alive.” The “born alive” definition would include any fetus that can breathe, has a beating heart, muscle movement or “pulsation of the umbilical cord,” after being removed from the mother’s body at any stage of development.

The bill would require health care providers or employees who are present for the attempted abortion to give the fetus the same degree of care as other children born alive at the same gestational age.

The “born alive” fetus would be immediately transported to a hospital for care, with fines and penalties implemented for health care providers who fail to provide the care, or do not report bill requirement violations.

Rep. Ron Bryce said he witnessed a failed abortion when he was a Texas medical resident. (Rachel Mipro/Kansas Reflector)
Rep. Ron Bryce said he witnessed a failed abortion when he was a Texas medical resident. (Rachel Mipro/Kansas Reflector)

Jeanne Gawdun, spokeswoman for Kansans for Life, said many infants died in attempted abortions. 

“Sadly, there are many cases across the country of infants born alive, left to die, or intentionally killed,” Gawdun said.

Critics have said this bill is unnecessary because no one is killing infants after they are born. In a fiscal note on the bill, the Kansas Attorney General’s Office said the bill is likely to be challenged on constitutional grounds.

The committee also passed a bill that would provide funding for programs that promote alternatives to abortion.

House Bill 2429, heard in the committee Tuesday, would require the Department for Children and Families to establish programs increasing awareness of abortion alternatives. If passed, it would divert an estimated $1.7 million in state funding away from low-income families and into programs that promote childbirth, in an effort to reduce abortions statewide.

These are a few of several abortion bills currently introduced in the Legislature by Republicans, despite a landslide defeat in August of a constitutional amendment on abortion. Other bills include a proposed ban on an abortion pill and a tax credit proposal for nonprofit pregnancy centers.

Committee chairwoman Rep. Brenda Landwehr, a Wichita Republican, teared up discussing abortion during the committee meeting.

“Unfortunately, society talks about abortion as if it should be normal,” Landwehr said. “It shouldn’t be normal. It just shouldn’t just be accepted as a fact of life because I know the pain of having an abortion and it hurts.”

She later said the legislation wasn’t anti-abortion.

“I’m somewhat offended just to hear that you believe that it’s an anti abortion bill because it’s not,” Landwehr said when a fellow lawmaker raised objections to the bill.

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Rachel Mipro
Rachel Mipro

A graduate of Louisiana State University, Rachel Mipro has covered state government in Baton Rouge and New Orleans. She and her fellow team of journalists were 2022 Goldsmith Prize Semi-Finalists for their work featuring the rise of the KKK in northern Louisiana, following racially-motivated shootings in 1960. With her move to the Midwest, Rachel is now turning her focus toward issues within Kansas public policies.