Kansas House Fails to Override Abortion Veto

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Last Updated 1:10 p.m. ET

The Kansas House failed to override Gov. Mark Parkinson's veto of a bill that would have rewritten the state's laws on late-term abortions, falling two votes short on Friday.

The measure could have discouraged any doctor who provides late-term abortions from establishing a practice in Kansas following the murder last year of Dr. George Tiller. His Wichita practice was one of the few in the nation performing late-term procedures.

Doctors would have to give the state more details about abortions performed after the 21st week of pregnancy and involving fetuses considered viable, or able to survive outside the womb. Kansas allows such abortions only to save the mother's life or prevent major damage to her health. Patients or family members would also be able to sue doctors if they have evidence an abortion violated state law.

Republican supporters of the measure immediately said they would move to reconsider the override action on Monday, giving absent members a chance to vote. The Senate will vote only if the House is successful, but chances for an override in the Senate seem more remote.

The 82-40 vote Friday was shy of the 84 needed to overturn the veto. Parkinson, a Democrat, said in vetoing the bill on April 15 that current law "strikes a reasonable balance on a very difficult issue" and doesn't merit changing.

Supporters of the override attempt said the bill addressed concerns that an earlier law wasn't being enforced and would end the issue that has risen annually in the Legislature.

Anti-abortion groups saw the bill as a way to keep providers from moving to Kansas to perform late-term procedures. They are most concerned about Dr. Leroy Carhart, a friend of Tiller who has a clinic outside Bellvue, Neb.

Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman recently signed two new laws regarding abortion, one of which was partly aimed at Carhart's clinic. It prohibits abortions at and after 20 weeks of pregnancy based on assertions that fetuses feel pain at that time. The current standard is viability.

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.

Rep. Judith Loganbill said the number of late-term abortions performed in Kansas was a small percentage of all abortions done in the state. Kansas Department of Health and Environment reports said 1.2 percent of all abortions in 2009 in the state were done on fetuses at 22 weeks of gestation or later.

"It's just time we say no. We've had enough. We have a good strong law. Let's keep it," said Loganbill, a Wichita Democrat.

The Kansas vote Friday comes days after the Oklahoma Legislature reversed Gov. Brad Henry's vetoes of two abortion bills.

One of those requires women to undergo an ultrasound and listen to a detailed description of the fetus before getting an abortion. The other measure prohibits pregnant women from seeking damages if physicians withhold information or provide inaccurate information about their pregnancy.

A hearing in a lawsuit challenging the first of those laws is set for Monday.
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