TOPEKA, Kan. - Kansas became the first state Tuesday to ban a common second-trimester abortion procedure that critics describe as dismembering a fetus.
Republican Gov. Sam Brownback, a strong abortion opponent, signed a bill imposing the ban. The new law takes effect July 1.
Two abortion rights groups that operate clinics with abortion services, Trust Women and Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri, said they're considering challenging the new law in court.
The law bans the dilation and evacuation procedure and redefines it as "dismemberment abortion." Drafted by the National Right to Life Committee, the measure also has been introduced in Missouri, Oklahoma and South Carolina, though only Kansas lawmakers have passed it.
"This is a horrific procedure," Brownback spokesman Eileen Hawley said. "He hopes the nation follows suit."
The procedure is banned except when necessary to save a woman's life or prevent irreversible damage to her physical health. Doctors cannot use forceps, clamps, scissors or similar instruments on a fetus to remove it from the womb in pieces.
Abortion rights supporters said the procedure is often the safest for women seeking to terminate pregnancies during the second trimester. The procedure accounted for about 9 percent of abortions last year in Kansas, where most pregnancies are terminated in the first trimester and the state already bans most abortions at or after the 22nd week.
"This dangerous law dictates to qualified physicians how they can practice medicine and treat their patients," Julie Burkhart, founder and CEO of Trust Women, said in a statement.
Brownback signed the bill in a private ceremony at his official residence; his office said he would re-enact it at multiple public events later this month. A photo from Tuesday's ceremony tweeted by the governor's office showed Brownback flanked by anti-abortion leaders and two large photos of fetuses.