Kansas lawmakers advance unproven, scientifically questionable ‘abortion reversal’ legislation
TOPEKA — Going against professional medical advice, lawmakers advanced a bill requiring health care providers to tell people undergoing drug-induced abortions they can still change their minds. Providers who refuse to do so could face thousands in fines and potential jail time.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists opposes the idea of an abortion reversal process, calling it scientifically unsound, unproven and unethical. Republican legislators passed the bill out of the House Health and Human Services Committee on Monday.
Committee chairwoman Rep. Brenda Landwehr, R-Wichita, said the legislation wasn’t unethical because it merely suggested the possibility of abortion reversal, rather than promised it.
“I take objection to being told that we are passing legislation that is totally misleading because I don’t believe it is,” Landwehr said. “It doesn’t give any guarantees in this that it will actually reverse it. It gives a possible option.”
Mifepristone, otherwise known as the abortion pill, is the first of two drugs used in medication abortions, and has been FDA-approved for years. The second, misoprostol, is usually taken within a 48-hour period of the first pill. While mifepristone can be used to end pregnancy on its own at certain doses, according to the World Health Organization, the U.S. FDA-approved method is for patients to take both medications.
Similar legislation has been vetoed by Gov. Laura Kelly in past years. Several other states have considered or passed similar abortion reversal legislation, such as North Dakota, South Dakota, Oklahoma and Idaho. Though several such laws were blocked in federal court.
Under the bill, facilities that prescribe or dispense mifepristone would have to display a notice telling patients that medication abortions may be reversible. The notice would tell the patient that mifepristone isn’t always effective in ending a pregnancy, and the abortion could possibly be reversed if the second pill hasn’t been taken.
The notice would also include resources the patient could access in an attempt to reverse the medication abortion. In places where mifepristone is taken, such as clinics, hospitals and pharmacies, the signs would be posted in waiting rooms and other areas used by people seeking abortion pills.
Physicians would also be required to tell people seeking mifepristone-based abortions that reversal may be possible and provide related resources before giving the patient medication, except in cases of medical emergency.
Opponents of the legislation, including doctors, Planned Parenthood and the Trust Women Foundation, submitted written testimony to object to the bill.
“If this was truly bad legislation, I find it interesting that the opponents just submitted written testimony and did not come testify orally in front of this committee,” said Rep. Tory Marie Blew, R-Great Bend.
Landwehr agreed with her.
“Apparently, they didn’t see it as that big a threat,” Landwehr said.
Supporters include anti-abortion groups such as Kansans for Life.
If the bill passes, physicians that refuse to talk about abortion reversal on more than one occasion could face up to a year of jail time. Health care facilities that prescribe or administer mifepristone could be fined $10,000 if they refuse to put up the mandatory notice.
The Kansas Department of Health and Environment said the legislation could cost the state $85,000 in fiscal year 2024 for implementation and compliance.
Rep. Melissa Oropeza, a Kansas City Democrat and a nurse practitioner, said she was worried the legislation would cause more distrust of health care workers.
“These days, being a health care provider, we are always up against the web and social media,” Oropeza said. “Having one more poster to fight is unfortunate.”