Parkinson vetoes proposed changes to Kansas abortion laws

Two-thirds majority for override lacking

? Kansas Gov. Mark Parkinson on Thursday vetoed a bill that rewrites the state’s laws regulating late-term abortions.

The measure struck down by Parkinson would prevent any late-term abortion provider from establishing a practice in Kansas following the May 2009 murder of Dr. George Tiller. Tiller’s Wichita practice was one of the few in the nation performing late-term procedures.

The measure would allow patients or family members to sue doctors if they have evidence an abortion violated state law.

Also, doctors would be required to report more details to the state about abortions performed after the 21st week of pregnancy and involving fetuses considered viable, or able to survive outside the womb.

Legislators approved the bill before taking their spring recess but appeared to lack the two-thirds majority of votes to override the veto. Both chambers return April 28 to resume the legislative session.

Parkinson’s veto follows two late-term abortion measures signed Tuesday by Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman.

One bars abortions at and after 20 weeks of pregnancy based on assertions that fetuses feel pain at that time. The current standard is viability.

That bill is partially meant to shut down one of the few late-term abortion providers in the country, Dr. LeRoy Carhart. Carhart was a friend of Tiller and has expressed interest in reopening Tiller’s practice, leading to the Kansas legislation.

Heineman also signed a bill requiring doctors or other health professionals to assess whether women have risk factors that could lead to mental or physical problems after an abortion.

Tiller’s clinic was among a few in the U.S. performing abortions in the last weeks of pregnancy, and a 1998 Kansas law targeted abortions of viable fetuses after the 21st week of pregnancy.

It permitted such abortions only to save a woman or girl’s life or to prevent “substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function.” Doctors must file a report with the state on each procedure.

But the state hasn’t required physicians to list the exact medical diagnosis justifying each abortion, just a statement saying it was necessary to preserve her health. The state has said none of the more than 3,000 late-term abortions of viable fetuses since the law took effect was to save a patient’s life.

Abortion opponents maintain that allowing lawsuits against doctors would help patients and their families hold physicians accountable for substandard care.

Supporters and critics disagree over whether the bill’s contents would be struck down by the courts as unconstitutional.