TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Abortion opponents urged a Kansas Senate committee Monday to endorse a bill that would prohibit doctors from terminating a pregnancy solely because a woman doesn't want a baby of a certain gender, marking the start of a push for additional restrictions in a state that's already tightened its laws significantly.
The measure before the Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee would make it a misdemeanor the first time a doctor is convicted of performing a sex-selection abortion and a felony each time afterward. A woman's husband could sue a doctor over such a procedure, as could a parent or guardian of a girl under 18 who had one.
Both chambers have solid anti-abortion majorities, and Republican Gov. Sam Brownback is a strong abortion opponent, making it likely that the measure will become law. Supporters of the bill believe there's widespread public support for a ban, and no abortion rights groups testified against it — though they see it as part of a broader effort to limit access.
The committee expects to vote on the measure in the next few weeks as other committees consider additional measures backed by the influential anti-abortion group Kansans for Life.
There's no solid data on how many sex-selection abortions are performed in Kansas. Abortion rights supporters contend there's no evidence of them. But abortion foes believe it's a growing problem because of more sophisticated prenatal testing.
Backers of the bill also said that such abortions almost always occur because a woman, her husband or her family doesn't want a girl.
Steven Mosher, president of the anti-abortion Population Research Institute, based in northern Virginia, said sex-selection abortions represent "the worst form of discrimination possible."
"It's a discrimination that kills," Mosher told reporters. "Men and women here are fundamentally equal and simply being the wrong gender is not grounds for being eliminated."
The Kansas legislation is modeled on bans in Illinois, Pennsylvania, Oklahoma and Arizona. It says a woman or girl who has a sex-selection abortion cannot be prosecuted, but the doctor could face up to a year in jail and a fine of up to $2,500 upon a first conviction.
A 2008 study by two Columbia University economists suggested that the practice of aborting female fetuses — widespread in some nations where parents traditionally prefer sons — is done in the U.S. on a limited basis. The economists analyzed the gender of U.S.-born children of Chinese, Korean and Asian Indian parents and found that the odds of having a boy increased if the family already had a girl or two.
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