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Abortion veto override vote falls one short in the Senate

UPDATED with comments from the governor and Planned Parenthood.

TOPEKA – The Senate narrowly missed overturning the governor’s veto of a bill altering reporting requirements for late-term abortions.

On a vote of 26-14, the bill fell one vote short of the two-thirds majority needed to overturn a veto Wednesday.

"Now that this issue is resolved, I hope legislators will turn their attention to crafting a responsible budget,” said Gov. Mark Parkinson, a Democrat, in a written statement.

Many lawmakers said it was a difficult vote for them, and one said he was changing his vote to a yes to end the divisive debate.

“This issue modifies everything that we do, it has become the most divisive issue in America,” said Sen. Roger Reitz, R-Manhattan, a physician. “It is certainly a divisive issue for this body and across the hall.”

Others noted that, while the override fell short, next year could see a new governor sitting in the executive seat — one who opposes abortion, if Republican U.S. Sen. Sam Brownback is elected.

"We will have a change in governor, we will get this passed, it is just a year away,” predicted state Sen. Ralph Ostmeyer, R-Grinnell.

Brownback will likely face off against state Sen. Tom Holland, D-Baldwin City, in the gubernatorial race. Holland voted against the override.

Senate substitute House Bill 2115 would have required physicians performing a late-term abortion to submit to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment the exact medical diagnosis that justified the procedure.

The bill would have also required the Kansas Board of Healing Arts to revoke the license of any doctor found in violation of the late-term abortion laws.

Additionally, the measure would have allowed a woman, her husband or parents if she was a minor to sue a doctor if they thought a late-term abortion was performed illegally.

No doctor in Kansas is known to be performing late-term abortions since the murder last year of physician George Tiller in Wichita. Tiller was one of a handful of doctors who performed late-term abortions in the country.

State law bans abortions after the 21st week of pregnancy unless a doctor certifies that continuing the pregnancy would cause serious harm to the woman. But doctors don’t give the exact diagnosis on reports submitted to the state.

In introducing the bill, Sen. Jeff Colyer, R-Overland Park, a physician, said the reporting requirements were no different than what doctors already had to submit to insurance companies. He called the bill a compromise that took into account previous veto messages on similar bills over the past few years.

“It allows us to have some compassion, compassion for the women, compassion for the unborn,” he said.

Opponents argued they have never had the chance to debate or amend the bill, since it usually came up as an conference committee report or one that they simply had a up or down vote on.

Previous attempts had come to the Senate late in the session, said Sen. Jean Schodorf, R-Wichita, who voted against the override.

“I want to see proper regulations for reporting and compassion for women... I also believe we can pass a better bill if we can get all parties to the table to discuss the bill,” she said.

Schodorf said she planned to send letters to all parties involved in the debate to set up meetings to hash out a true compromise bill.

On Monday, the House mustered enough votes to overturn Gov. Mark Parkinson’s veto on a second attempt.

For more, read Thursday’s Wichita Eagle.From Planned Parenthood:

Overland Park, KS – On behalf of Kansas women and families, our patients and our staff, Planned Parenthood applauds the Kansas Senate for sustaining Governor Parkinson's veto of Senate Substitute for House Bill 2115 (S Sub HB 2115) and its show of support for quality reproductive health care in Kansas. This action demonstrates a real commitment to the great majority of Kansans who support reasonable restrictions while assuring access to affordable health care.

"We commend the Senate's action today upholding Governor Parkinson's veto of this unnecessary legislation," stated Peter Brownlie, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri. Our Senators have sent a clear message that women's health matters. It's time for the legislature to focus on preventing unintended pregnancy and increasing access to preventive health services."

"Kansans want solutions that move the State forward in a positive direction, particularly in light of the current financial turmoil," concluded Brownlie. "We need to stop wasting untold taxpayer dollars on legislative and legal battles that accomplish nothing. We call on our elected officials to support proven programs that prevent unintended pregnancy; such as responsible sex education and affordable family planning services."