Bill altering abortion law may face veto

TOPEKA — A bill changing the state's late-term abortion laws seems unlikely to find a friendly reception on the governor's desk.

Shortly before midnight Tuesday, lawmakers approved a bill requiring doctors to report more details to the state justifying why a late-term abortion was performed.

The votes fell just short of the two-thirds majority needed in both chambers to overturn a veto by the governor.

The House passed the bill on an 83-36 vote late Tuesday night, hours after the Senate approved it, 24-15.

Gov. Mark Parkinson, a Democrat, said Wednesday that the state's current law strikes a good balance reflecting the different views on the issue.

"We should only amend it or change it if there are compelling reasons to do so," he said.

Parkinson said he would take a close look at the bill before making a final decision. Shortly before leaving to become Secretary of Health and Human Services, former Gov. Kathleen Sebelius vetoed a similar measure.

"Decisions involving abortion are best made by the women involved, their family, their pastors and their doctors. They are not best made by legislators," Parkinson said.

The proposal, which was inserted into what was originally a utility bill, would require doctors give the specific medical diagnosis to justify a late-term abortion.

Kansas allows late-term abortions after the 22nd week of pregnancy in limited circumstances. George Tiller of Wichita was one of a handful of physicians nationwide who provide late-term abortions. His clinic was closed after he was shot to death last May.

The bill's supporters and opponents agreed that the goal was to stop someone else from opening such a clinic.

"They want to dissuade another physician like George Tiller from setting up camp here," said Kari Ann Rinker, a lobbyist for the National Organization for Women's state chapter.

Mary Kay Culp, executive director of Kansans for Life, said that without such a measure, "There's a red carpet leading into all four sides of this state for any abortionist who wants to come in."

The measure, House Bill 2115, also would allow a woman or her husband — or her parents if she is younger than 18 — to sue an abortion provider if they believed a late-term abortion was performed illegally.

And it would define a viable fetus as one in which "there is a reasonable probability that the life of the child can be continued indefinitely outside the mother's womb with natural or artificial life-supportive measures."