Archive for Saturday, March 16, 1991

3-16-91 PRO-LIFE FORCES SEE EXPECTATIONS DIM

March 16, 1991

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— Pro-life groups were heartened by last year's election of Gov. Joan Finney, who defeated a pro-choice governor, but that victory hasn't translated into passage of sweeping regulations against abortion by the 1991 Legislature.

Cynthia Patton, a lawyer and representative of Kansans for Life, said in November that "pro-lifers all over the state were a big part of the grass-roots network that helped give Finney her victory. I think our chances are excellent."

However, with two-thirds of the regular session in the book the House and Senate have yet to take up a major bill that encompasses broad abortion restrictions. As the days go by, chances dim for anti-abortion bills, Patton said Friday.

FINNEY personally opposes abortion, although she has kept her pledge not to propose abortion-related bills herself. Former Gov. Mike Hayden described himself as pro-choice and was endorsed by the National Organization for Women.

"Issues in campaigns don't always accurately reflect what's going to happen in the Legislature," said Rep. John Solbach, D-Lawrence. "This year the principal issue was property tax. That will be translated into legislative action. But I don't think abortion is that kind of deciding issue."

Although there is a parental notification bill languishing in the Senate Federal and State Affairs Committee, there has been only one abortion-related "test vote" this legislative session. That came last week in the House.

DURING DEBATE on a local health department bill, Rep. Melvin Neufeld, R-Ingalls, proposed an amendment that would have blocked financing for abortion counseling at state facilities, including the Kansas University Medical Center in Kansas City, Kan.

Neufled asked for a roll-call vote. His strategy was to test the water by forcing the House including 39 new members to go on the record on an abortion issue. The amendment was defeated 36-83. Lawrence's three House members voted against it.

"In the minds of many members that vote provided an indication of what might happen on a parental notification bill or any other abortion bill this year in the House. This may not be the year for it," said Rep. Betty Jo Charlton, D-Lawrence.

REP. SANDY Praeger, R-Lawrence, a "strong pro-choice" freshman legislator, said she was "surprised we haven't had more abortion legislation before us. I would anticipate that an anti-abortion bill will not pass the House."

A heavily amended, watered-down bill that required pre-abortion parental notification for girls under 16 was passed by the House in the 1990 session after a stormy debate. However, that bill was killed by the Senate.

"If the Senate isn't going to pass abortion legislation, there isn't a lot of sense in the House wasting a lot of time," Solbach said. "I don't think that our leadership, (Majority Leader) Donna Whiteman, wants the issue to come up."

NORMALLY, abortion bills come out of the Federal and State Affairs Committee of the House or Senate. Rep. Kathleen Sebelius, D-Topeka, chair of the House panel, said no one should expect an abortion bill from her largely pro-choice committee. Sen. Ed Reilly, R-Leavenworth, said his committee will consider a consent bill.

"I'm not going to make any predictions," Reilly said. "The (pro-life) groups felt they wanted to get it in again this year and make it an issue. Whether it passes both Houses or not is irrelevant to them. If it passes, fine."

The Senate bill would require prior notification of at least one parent by doctors who intend to perform abortions on girls under 18. The bill also includes a judicial bypass provision, which allows a girl to notify a judge if she cannot notify a parent.

PATTON SAID pro-life groups have yet to ask for a hearing on the bill. They are working to rally more Senate support for it. The primary goal is a law that applies to girls under 18, rather than girls under 16, she said.

"We should put senators on the line. The bill will pass the Senate if the public support is there," Patton said. "But it probably won't go to the House this session. It doesn't look like things are going as well as they did last year."

Patton said Finney hasn't used the power of her office to convince legislators to support the bill. It would be appropriate for the governor to garner support from key senators in exchange for her support on other bills, Patton said.

SEBELIUS SAID that during the previous administration, Hayden whom she called "supposedly pro-choice" leaned hard on lawmakers to support restrictive abortion legislation. Ironically, there is no pressure from Finney, she said.

"It has really changed the dynamics. A lot of what we have done in the last couple of years was because of a supposedly pro-choice governor. Now we have a supposedly anti-choice governor saying this is really not a priority. I'll take it," Sebelius said.

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