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Archive for Saturday, April 16, 2005

Sebelius vetoes abortion clinics bill

April 16, 2005

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— Criticizing legislators for choosing "pure politics over good policy," Gov. Kathleen Sebelius vetoed a bill Friday imposing additional regulations on abortion clinics.

Abortion opponents are likely to attempt a veto override after the Legislature returns April 27 from its annual spring break.

The bill requires abortion clinics to obtain an annual license from the Department of Health and Environment, hire surgeons as their medical directors and report patient deaths to the state within a day. It also mandates that KDHE set standards for equipment, medical screenings, ventilation and lighting.

Sebelius vetoed a similar bill in 2003, arguing standards should be set by medical professionals, not legislators. She made the same argument Friday.

She also noted that she had said repeatedly that she would sign a measure that applied not only to abortion but all surgeries performed under anesthesia in doctor's offices and clinics.

"Once again in 2005, the Legislature has chosen pure politics over good policy, has rejected uniform standards for all procedures and has instead chosen to regulate only one procedure -- abortion," Sebelius said in her veto message.

It takes a two-thirds vote of the Legislature to override a veto. That's 27 votes in the Senate and 84 in the House. It passed with 27 Senate votes and 88 in the House.

Mary Kay Culp, executive director of Kansans for Life, the state's largest anti-abortion group, said Sebelius' veto "cements her legacy as a governor who protected the abortion industry rather than protecting women."

But abortion rights supporters were suspicious of the bill.

"The intent is to make women's health care services less accessible and more expensive," said Sarah London, lobbyist for Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri.

Abortion opponents argued that tougher oversight of clinics would protect women's health. They frequently cited the January death of a 19-year-old woman who was a patient at the Wichita clinic operated by Dr. George Tiller, known for performing late-term procedures.

The Board of Healing Arts is reviewing the case but has said the patient died in a hospital, not Tiller's clinic.

Abortion opponents also have pointed to Dr. Krishna Rajanna's clinic in Kansas City, Kan. Two weeks ago, a board hearing officer concluded it wasn't clean enough, that Rajanna had mishandled medications and that his practices represented a danger to the public.

In March, an inspector reported finding a dead mouse in the clinic. While Rajanna has maintained that conditions there have been misrepresented, the board will consider revoking his license April 23.

As for Sebelius, Culp said, "I think she's being completely negligent in failing to sign this bill."

But Sebelius said in her message there should be strong standards offering "real protection across all procedures."

And Julie Burkhart, lobbyist for the abortion rights group ProKanDo, added: "If we're truly intent on protecting women's health, we would look at other aspects of medicine as well."

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