Topeka Just before legislators finished their session Tuesday, abortion opponents in the Senate failed to override Gov. Kathleen Sebelius' veto of a proposal requiring doctors to tell the state exactly why they aborted fetuses able to survive outside the womb.
The Legislature was scheduled to meet for its ceremonial closing, but that turned into a short working session to pass two measures providing assistance to tornado-stricken Greensburg. After work was completed on tornado relief legislation, Sen. Phil Journey called for the override vote.
His motion failed 19-10 - eight votes short of the two-thirds majority needed to override the veto in the chamber. Seven members were absent and four didn't vote.
"I was hoping we'd get closer. Sometimes you have to jump on the donkey and tilt at windmills," said Journey, R-Haysville.
A strong abortion opponent, Journey said he will introduce legislation next year to impose the reporting requirement.
"I think there's enough support to get a bill passed. This was a good test of the waters," he said.
The reporting measure was added by the Legislature to the final budget bill of the year before it was sent to Sebelius earlier this month.
She signed the budget bill Monday but used her power to veto individual items to block the tougher reporting requirements. She said physicians would face "open-ended" questions and be required to divulge details about each patient's medical condition. She also vetoed an abortion-reporting bill last year.
But Journey said patients' privacy already is protected because physicians assign patients numbers and don't submit their names to the state.
"This isn't a threat to the privacy of those who undergo this procedure," he said.
The measure also directed the Kansas Department of Health and Environment to summarize the information it received from physicians about why they performed the procedure and include it in annual reports the agency already publishes.
Under state law, a physician can perform an abortion after the 21st week of pregnancy to save a woman's life or to prevent "substantial and irreversible harm" to "a major bodily function." The law doesn't specifically say that a major bodily function includes mental health, although officials have enforced it as if it did.
Physicians must report each late-term procedure, whether the fetus was viable and whether the abortion preserved a woman's life or her health and state generally how they made those assessments.
Among those backing the override attempt was Senate Majority Leader Derek Schmidt.
"I thought this was a narrowly crafted, reasonable request for information that relates only to third trimester situations," said Schmidt, R-Independence.
But Sen. John Vratil, R-Leawood, thought the measure was a bad idea and unconstitutional.
"It opens it up to the invasion of privacy of women," he said. "The proviso leaves it open to identifying women."