WASHINGTON (BP)–The Kansas Senate fell a vote short of overriding the veto of a bill designed to reduce late-term abortions in a state that has been notorious for the practice.
Senators voted 26-14 to override Democratic Gov. Mark Parkinson’s veto, falling just short of the 27 votes needed for a two-thirds majority. The Senate’s failure came May 5, two days after the House of Representatives gained the votes required for an override by an 86-35 margin.
The legislation would have toughened reporting requirements for abortions after the 21st week of pregnancy, mandating doctors provide detailed information about such late-term procedures. The bill also would have provided women — and their families — with legal standing to sue doctors they believe have performed illegal late-term abortions.
Supporters sought in the bill to address Kansas’ longtime reputation as the “late-term abortion capital of America” and what they saw as the state’s failure to enforce a 1998 law. The state’s notoriety among pro-life advocates was based largely on the practice of Wichita abortion doctor George Tiller. Women traveled to Tiller’s Wichita clinic from throughout the United States and various foreign countries in order to have abortions even in the third trimester.
Tiller, 67, died last May at the hands of a gunman inside Reformation Lutheran Church, the Wichita congregation of which he was a member. Scott Roeder, 52, of Merriam, Kan., was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison. Tiller’s family closed the clinic permanently.
The country’s major pro-life organizations condemned Tiller’s slaying.
Kansas enacted a law 12 years ago that bans post-viability abortions unless the mother’s life is endangered or her health is threatened with “substantial and irreversible” damage. More than 2,900 post-viability abortions have been performed since then in Kansas, however, leaving supporters of the law dissatisfied with the state’s enforcement of it.
The new bill’s advocates expressed disappointment in the Senate vote.
“This is a tragedy for women and a welcome mat for late-term abortionists to set up shop again in Kansas,” Kansans for Life Executive Director May Kay Culp said in a written statement.
Sen. Ralph Ostmeyer, a Republican, said with an emotional voice, according to The Topeka Capital-Journal, “I hope someday to serve in this chamber long enough to see the unborn have a voice. I have a handicapped daughter at home — 31 years old today that deserves very much to be part of this world. She did not ask to be here, but it troubles me deeply that there are people in this world that would have aborted her to be a convenience to them.”
The vetoed bill was the fifth unsuccessful effort to stop reporting abuses for late-term abortions, according to Kansans for Life. Parkinson and his predecessor, now-Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, have vetoed each one.
The number of abortions performed in Kansas at 22 weeks or later in pregnancy declined from 323 in 2008 to 121 last year, according to state data. Of those abortions in 2009, 67 were of viable unborn babies, 66 on women from out of state. In 2008, 192 were on children who could have survived outside the womb, 188 on non-resident women.
Despite the drop in late-term abortions, Culp called it “worrisome that four abortionists who worked for Tiller still have active Kansas medical licenses.”
Compiled by Baptist Press Washington bureau chief Tom Strode.