Kansas Governor Sam Brownback signs bills restricting abortion

KANSAS CITY, Missouri Tue Apr 12, 2011 7:32pm EDT

KANSAS CITY, Missouri (Reuters) - Kansas Governor Sam Brownback has signed two anti-abortion bills, including one that bans abortion after 21 weeks based on the view that a fetus can feel pain at that point, officials said Tuesday.

"These bills are a reflection of the culture of life that is being embraced all across Kansas," Brownback, a Republican who took office in January, said in a statement. "They represent a mainstream, bipartisan, and common-sense approach to a divisive issue."

One of the bills, which Brownback signed into law on Tuesday, will require that a doctor get a parent's notarized signature for girls age 17 or younger who want an abortion. If married, both parents would have to sign.

Current law requires only that a doctor notify a parent.

The other law, which Brownback signed earlier but announced Tuesday, would ban abortions after the 21st week of pregnancy unless the mother is at risk of death or substantial injury.

The ban, similar to one passed in Nebraska, is based on the contested view that a fetus can feel pain at about 20 weeks.

Fifteen other states are reviewing this type of "fetal pain" restriction, according to pro-choice advocates. Critics say the bills do not make adequate exceptions for a woman's health or for cases where a fetus has serious problems.

Peter Brownlie, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri, expressed his dismay with the bills.

"We are disappointed the Kansas Legislature and Gov. Brownback are putting the health and safety of Kansas women and families at risk for purposes of political posturing," Brownlie said in a press release. "Neither bill does anything to reduce the number of abortions in Kansas."

Abortions after 21 weeks represent about 1.5 percent of U.S. abortions, according to the Guttmacher Institute, which researches reproductive health issues.

The new laws take effect on July 1, barring successful court action by opponents to delay or strike them down.

(Additional reporting by Mary Wisniewski; Editing by Mary Wisniewski and Peter Bohan)

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