Elections

Governor vetoes bill on abortion diagnosis

TOPEKA — A bill requiring doctors to give the specific diagnosis justifying a late-term abortion was vetoed by the governor Thursday.

Gov. Mark Parkinson called abortion a "tragedy" but said it "is a private decision and should not be dictated by public officials."

He said he thought the state's current late-term abortion law struck a reasonable balance and that an annual legislative battle on the issue was not in the public's best interest.

The vetoed bill was similar to bills vetoed more than once by Gov. Kathleen Sebelius.

"We are grateful that he has once again vetoed the bill and are hopeful that the legislature will sustain his veto," said Peter Brownlie, chief executive officer and president of Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri.

Mary Kay Culp, executive director of Kansans for Life, said she was disgusted by Parkinson's decision. She said the state must ensure its laws on abortion laws are being followed and enforced.

"There's just no reason to be against this bill," she said. "It's 12 years and 3,000 abortions too late."

State law bans abortions after the 22nd week of pregnancy unless a physician certifies that continuing the pregnancy would cause serious harm to the woman. But doctors don't give the diagnosis on reports submitted to the state.

Anti-abortion groups have long said abortion clinics use bogus diagnoses to justify late-term abortion on demand.

Late-term abortions accounted for less than 2 percent of all abortions performed in Kansas last year, but the procedure generates most of the abortion-related debate in Kansas and beyond.

The bill, Senate substitute for House Bill 2115, did not pass by a veto-proof margin in either chamber.

The Legislature will reconvene April 28 for the so-called veto session, and there will likely be an attempt to override Parkinson's veto. The bill would need to win two-thirds majorities in both the House and Senate, or 84 and 27 votes respectively.

Culp noted that the House fell one vote short of a veto-proof majority in the initial vote and the Senate fell three short of the needed 27.

"We will be working hard to get those votes," she said.

Kansans for Life would campaign against lawmakers who did not help overturn the veto, she said.

Parkinson's veto follows two late-term abortion measures signed into law Tuesday by Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman.

One bars abortions at and after 20 weeks of pregnancy based on assertions that fetuses feel pain at that time. The current standard is viability.

That bill is partially meant to shut down one of the few late-term abortion providers in the country, LeRoy Carhart. Carhart was a friend of slain Wichita abortion provider George Tiller and has expressed interest in reopening Tiller's practice, leading to the Kansas legislation.

Heineman also signed a bill requiring doctors or other health professionals to assess whether women have risk factors that could lead to mental or physical problems after an abortion.

The Kansas proposal would have required doctors performing abortions after the 22nd week of pregnancy to give the specific diagnosis justifying the procedure on forms that are then sent to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.

The measure also would have allowed a woman, her spouse or parents if she were a minor to later sue a physician if they thought the late-term abortion was performed illegally.

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