In this photo from Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2020, Kansas Senate Majority Leader Jim Denning, R-Overland Park, answers questions from reporters about Medicaid expansion following a news conference with other backers of a bipartisan plan at the Statehouse in Topeka, Kan. Denning is urging lawmakers not to add a work requirement to the expansion legislation. (AP Photo/John Hanna)

Kansas leader decries attempts to tie abortion, Medicaid


TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A top Republican lawmaker in Kansas on Friday disputed what has become a key talking point for GOP colleagues who are blocking a bipartisan plan to expand the state’s Medicaid program by arguing that it could lead to taxpayers funding elective abortions.

Senate Majority Leader Jim Denning, a Kansas City-area Republican, sent an email Friday to senators decrying what he called “inaccurate verbal and written statements” used to justify opposition among anti-abortion lawmakers and groups to expand the plan he drafted with Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly.

Abortion opponents want to pass an amendment to the Kansas Constitution declaring that its Bill of Rights does not “secure” the right to an abortion, overturning a state Supreme Court decision last year. The measure passed the Senate but failed in the House, and its backers are promising to block any debate on Medicaid expansion until the proposed amendment is put on the ballot for voters’ possible approval.

Anti-abortion lawmakers and groups have argued over the past week that a Kansas law banning state funding of abortions is likely to fall to a legal challenge unless the anti-abortion amendment is enacted. They also contend that expanding Medicaid likely increases the number of women could obtain taxpayer-funded abortions.

But Denning said in his email that “there is NO link.” Denning voted for the proposed anti-abortion amendment when the Senate approved it.

Denning said under a section of the Medicaid expansion bill, pregnant women specifically would not be covered by the expanded part of the program but by the traditional Medicaid program.


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