Citing privacy, governor vetoes abortion reporting bill

? Legislation requiring physicians to furnish the state with additional information when they perform abortions was vetoed Friday by Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, who said it crossed the line on privacy issues.

The bill would have required physicians to inform state health officials about each late-term abortion and whether the fetus was abnormal. It also would have expanded how much information doctors would have had to report, including how a woman would have been harmed without the procedure.

When the bill was debated by legislators, supporters said it would give Kansans better data about abortion, while opponents called it an attempt to harass doctors and clinics.

In her veto message, Sebelius said the bill did nothing to reduce the number of abortions in Kansas.

“Instead, it will force women to provide intimate, sensitive health information to the government,” she wrote. “Privacy is a fundamental concern to all Kansans.”

She also noted, “As we have seen in recent months, we can never take our health privacy for granted.”

That was viewed by some as an oblique reference by the Democratic governor to Republican Atty. Gen. Phill Kline’s ongoing dispute with two abortion clinics over access to their patients’ records.

Sebelius also noted that abortions have declined 11 percent in Kansas during her three years as governor and “my administration will continue to work to reduce these numbers even more.”

State health officials say 10,542 abortions were reported in Kansas last year, of which 4,914 were for out-of-state residents and 5,628 for Kansans.

The governor said she would sign legislation next week to increase tax credits for adoption and will also sign a state budget that contains a 65 percent funding increase for a program that counsels women on options other than abortions.

“These common-sense steps will reduce abortions and will provide real solutions for women facing this tragic decision,” she said.

Sebelius, who supports abortions rights, also noted in her veto message: “Personally, I believe abortion is wrong.”

She vetoed bills in 2003 and 2005 to single out abortion clinics for special regulation by state health officials.

Physicians already have to send the health department annual reports on the number of abortions they have performed. When the fetus is at least 22 weeks old, the doctor must show that it couldn’t survive outside the womb or that the patient faced death or “substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function.”

This was the governor’s fourth veto this year, including one on a bill allowing Kansans to carry concealed handguns. Legislators overrode that veto, and the bill became law effective July 1. So far, she has signed 196 bills from the 2006 session.