TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — About 25 college students from across Kansas lobbied legislators Monday against imposing stricter abortion regulations.
The students met with national organizers from Choice USA and Planned Parenthood at a building near the Statehouse before fanning out to meet with legislators at the state Capitol. The goal, students said, was to make sure their voices are heard in a building dominated by conservative Republicans.
"Our mission was to demonstrate that there are young people in Kansas that oppose any more restrictions on reproductive freedom," said Emma Halling, student leader of the Choice USA chapter at the University of Kansas.
The activists and students oppose a bill in the Kansas Legislature banning the use of state funds for abortions. They contend it would limit access to reproductive health services.
Elise Higgins, lobbyist for the National Organization for Women, said part of the lobbying effort was to educate legislators about the provisions of a bill that failed to advance in the 2012 session but is likely to return this session. She said among the concerns was the impact on training medical doctors at the University of Kansas as it related to women's health services, such as learning how to conduct a safe abortion.
"A lot of legislators don't know what's in the bill," Higgins said, describing the restrictions put in place last year as overreaching. "We will win in the court of public opinion even if legislative victories are out of reach now."
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lance Kinzer, a conservative Olathe Republican who strongly opposes abortion, said he expects the bill dealing with indirect taxpayer subsidies of abortion to be introduced in the House this week.
He said it will contain a provision about doctors-in-training at the Medical Center. The language will mirror the proposal Kinzer and other abortion opponents pursued last year, rather than compromise language included in the budget, in effect only through June.
A compromise was reached in the 2012 session that allowed the medical residents to perform abortions off-site and on their own time to prevent the use of state tax dollars to fund the procedures. Medical center officials and abortion rights supporters were concerned that the obstetrics and gynecology department remained accredited by providing a comprehensive education to students.
But Kinzer said he expects organizational changes at the Medical Center itself to allay concerns about passing such a provision.
"I don't think there's going to be the same conflict," he said. "My sense is that we're not going to have that fight again this year."
Last month, at least 1,000 abortion opponents gathered at the Statehouse to mark the 40th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion.