Editorials

Hold abortion vote and move on

Maybe the Kansas Senate will join the House in voting to override Gov. Mark Parkinson's veto of the session's requisite abortion bill. Maybe it won't, falling short of the needed 27 votes.

Either way, the action seems symbolic, because the only physician in the state who performed late-term abortions, George Tiller, was murdered in his Wichita church last May by anti-abortion zealot Scott Roeder.

It's beyond odd that the legislative crusade against Tiller has outlived Tiller.

That said, there are worse anti-abortion laws than the one before the Legislature, such as those recently passed in Oklahoma and Nebraska.

Kansas' measure would require any doctors resuming late-term abortions in the state to detail their diagnosis as they report the procedure to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (abortion opponents found Tiller's reports to KDHE to be frustratingly vague). It also would specify the right of a woman or her husband (or parents, in the case of a minor) to sue a doctor later believed to have performed her late-term abortion unlawfully.

The Kansas legislation may be unnecessary and politically motivated, but at least it underscores current law — which allows late-term abortions when necessary to preserve the life of the woman, or if the birth will cause a substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function of the pregnant woman.

For their part, though, legislators to the state's north and south are newly injecting themselves between doctor and abortion patient.

In Oklahoma, even a pregnant victim of rape or incest who is seeking an abortion would have to receive an ultrasound (though she could look away from the screen) and hear a detailed description of her fetus. Of the a law — vetoed by Gov. Brad Henry but overridden by the Oklahoma Legislature and already on hold by a court order — a Tulsa clinic director said, "It's like they don't think women have given serious thought and consideration before they walk through our doors."

Nebraska recently passed the first-in-the-nation ban on most abortions at and after 20 weeks of pregnancy — a likely unconstitutional standard earlier than viability, newly based on some assertions that fetuses feel pain at that time.

Where does this legislative onslaught lead, beyond legal challenge?

In results released in March, the Gallup Poll found that 23 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds think abortion should be illegal in all circumstances — the most since Gallup started asking the question in 1975. Such a trend could promise even more restrictive legislation, as pro-life young adults become pro-life policymakers. But perhaps it also might lead to more creative and less combative solutions for how to curtail abortions while respecting women, and how to avoid unintended pregnancies and promote adoption.

For now, though, the 2010 Legislature needs to do whatever it's going to do on the abortion bill and quickly move on. Unlike late-term abortions, the state's budget problems are ongoing and growing.

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