KANSAS CITY, Kansas (Reuters) _ The Kansas Senate passed a bill on Wednesday that places new limits on abortions after 21 weeks of pregnancy, citing some research findings that suggest after that stage a fetus can feel pain.
The Senate approved the bill by a 24-13 vote after similar legislation passed easily in the House recently. Governor Sam Brownback, newly elected Republican governor of Kansas, is a longtime supporter of legislation that restrict abortions and is expected to sign the bill.
The bill is patterned after one that took effect in Nebraska last year. A court challenge is expected there. The Idaho Senate passed a similar bill to the one in Kansas earlier on Wednesday.
Abortion rights activists say pregnancies are seldom terminated as late as 21 weeks, but that the new law could endanger lives of women who require late-term abortions for their own health reasons.
"Women around the country need to wake up and pay attention to what's happening in state legislatures," said Elizabeth Nash, who tracks abortion polices for the Guttmacher Institute, an abortion rights think-tank.
Abortion opponents said the legislation looks after the health and rights of the unborn.
The idea is to return the focus to the fetus, said Mary Spaulding Balch of the National Right to Life Committee in a statement.
"Kansas and Idaho are the latest states to follow Nebraska in recognizing that unborn children feel pain and in moving to protect them," Balch said.
"The state has a vested interest in these unborn lives and many states are actively working to promote life-affirming and protective laws"
(Reporting by Kevin Murphy; Editing by Jerry Norton)