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Kansas House Votes to Override Abortion Veto

TOPEKA, Kan.-Kansas House members voted Monday to override Democratic Gov. Mark Parkinson's veto of a late-term abortion bill.

The 86-35 vote sends the bill to the Senate. The bill needs 27 votes in the Senate to override Parkinson's veto and allow the bill to become law. Chances there are less certain, where the bill passed with only 24 votes earlier in the session. Republicans have majorities in both chambers.

"We knew we were very, very close," said Rep. Lance Kinzer, an Olathe Republican who led the override attempt. "Obviously, there were organized efforts at the grass-roots level" over the weekend.

Parkinson issued a statement, saying there were more important issues before legislators than abortion politics.

"It is disappointing that the House has chosen to spend its time on a politically divisive issue that is exhausted annually instead of focusing on this year's challenging state budget, which they have yet to discuss," Parkinson said.

Under the bill, patients or family members could sue doctors if they have evidence an abortion violated state law.

The measure also requires more details in doctors' reports to the state about abortions of viable fetuses after the 21st week of pregnancy. Kansas allows such abortions only to save the mother's life or prevent major damage to her health.

No doctor in Kansas is known to be performing late-term abortions since the murder last year of Dr. George Tiller.

Kansas is among several Midwest states seeking tighter abortion regulations.

On Monday, Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson agreed to a court order requested by abortion providers to delay enforcement of a new state law, which requires women to get an ultrasound and hear a detailed description of the fetus. It was one of two bills vetoed by Gov. Brad Henry but overridden by the Oklahoma Legislature and allowed to become law. Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman signed two bills into law in April, also aimed at late-term procedures.

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.

Parkinson vetoed the Kansas law on April 15, saying that while all abortions were tragic, he said it is a matter that should be decided by women, their families, medical providers and pastors, not legislators. A similar bill was vetoed in 2009 by then-Gov. Kathleen Sebelius.

Kinzer said the success of the bill this year was due to efforts to address the concerns raised by Sebelius' veto, including language regarding jurisdiction of prosecutors to file charges against providers.

The bill was first introduced in 2006 in effort to improve enforcement of Kansas' 1999 late-term laws, Kinzer said, specifically making certain providers were listing a specific medical condition for performing the abortion and not restating statutes on mandated forms.

"The issue has dogged the state for a decade," Kinzer said.

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