Topeka Gov. Kathleen Sebelius vetoed a bill Monday that would have imposed new restrictions on abortion providers and allowed lawsuits to block late-term procedures, arguing it could deny women lifesaving medical care.
But abortion opponents scoffed at her arguments and said Sebelius' action shows she holds radical views. Some supporters of the bill predicted an attempt to override Sebelius' veto when the Legislature returns April 30 from its annual spring break.
The measure was partly a response to allegations that Dr. George Tiller has performed illegal late-term abortions at his Wichita clinic. Tiller, among the few U.S. physicians who perform such procedures, has said he follows state law.
Sebelius, an abortion-rights supporter, objected most strongly to provisions allowing a patient's spouse or family members to go to court if they believed a doctor had performed or was about to perform an illegal late-term abortion. The patient herself also could sue, but so could a local prosecutor.
The governor said in her veto message that such a lawsuit could be filed to block a patient's abortion "even where it may be necessary to save her life." She said the bill would encourage litigation and jeopardize patients' privacy.
"I am concerned that the bill is likely unconstitutional or, even worse, endangers the lives of women," she wrote. "As governor, nothing is more important to me than the safety, health and privacy rights of our citizens."
Abortion opponents said the bill would protect patients from being coerced into having abortions, particularly minors. Also, they noted that some provisions were designed to increase the amount of information patients receive before having their pregnancies terminated.
For example, doctors using ultrasound or monitoring fetal heartbeats would have to make information from those sources available to a patient at least 30 minutes before an abortion. Also, doctors would have to tell their patients whether their fetuses are viable and, if not, why.
The bill also allows a former patient or her family to sue a doctor for monetary damages if she believes a pregnancy was improperly terminated.