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Kansas laws highlight latest in abortion battle

There are few issues as polarizing for Americans as abortion. Ever since the Supreme Court legalized the procedure in 1973, people for and against abortion rights have been battling in and out of court about where and for whom abortions should be available.

Kansas, where an abortion doctor was killed by an anti-abortion advocate two years ago, has long been at the center of the fight. And, as CBS News correspondent Cynthia Bowers reports, new laws aimed at limiting abortions are adding even more fuel to the fire -- though their implementation is being held up by court challenges.

Dr. Traci Nauser, an OB/GYN, checked on a patient in her Overland Park, Kan., office. The married mother of two -- who asked not to be identified -- never dreamed she'd be there.

"I found out at 14 weeks that my baby had encephaly -- I was told if I carried my baby to term that, within five minutes of being born, that my baby would die, and I would (have) to watch my baby die," the unidentified patient told CBS News.

Her obstetrician suggested Nauser's clinic -- one of only three clinics still performing abortions in Kansas -- and that access could be cut even further.

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback, a staunch abortion opponent, has said of the issue, "Kansas, in the heart of America, is a culture of life state." He has signed three bills restricting the procedure since taking office in January.

One requires both parents of a minor give notarized consent before any abortion. The second bans private insurance coverage for most abortions. And the third gives the state's health department broad authority to regulate the operations of abortion providers.

Republican Sen. Mary Pilcher Cook says, "We consider this common sense legislation that almost all Kansas citizens would like to see."

The Supreme Court's landmark Roe v. Wade ruling made abortion legal across the country, but a 1992 ruling gave states some power to regulate it.

Since then, abortion rights advocates allege, new laws in dozens of states are intended to drive abortion providers out of business.

Earlier this month, Mississippi voters rejected a call to declare a fetus a person.

Pilcher Cook says her state's regulations are intended solely to protect women.

Asked what she says to people who view the pending restrictions as a possible means of outlawing abortion by a side door, Pilcher Cook replied, "We're protecting women's health and safety. We're making sure that parents make the decisions over their children's health care; and we're making sure that taxpayers are not paying for abortions that they believe are immoral."

Nauser and her father, Dr. Herb Hodes, also an OB/GYN, see it much differently, and are involved in the court fight against the new restrictions.

"Abortion is a medical procedure," Hodes said. "It's a not a political procedure, but it's being made that by the government."

Nauser says the new restrictions are "onerous, they're un-medical, they're completely unnecessary."

Hodes added, "It's blatantly obvious, and it's death by a thousand paper cuts."

Nauser and Hodes say they fear limiting access to abortion will drive desperate women to illegal clinics, or to drugs bought on the Internet.

"Women are going to have to go back to dying if we don't stop this railroad on women's rights," Nauser said.

That fear is now understood by a woman who, until recently, wasn't sure she supported abortion rights.

"It was definitely the most difficult decision that I've ever had to make," the unidentified patient who received an abortion told CBS News. "And, I want people to know that it's not a black and white issue -- there are so many gray areas."

And she fears it's the women in those gray areas who stand to lose the most if these new laws hold up in the high court.

On "The Early Show" co-anchor Rebecca Jarvis added that a bill in front of the Ohio legislature would ban abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detectable. That so-called "Heartbeat Bill" would effectively outlaw abortions for women after their fifth or sixth week of pregnancy.