Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly on Monday vetoed a bill that would have required doctors to inform patients that the abortion pill is reversible — a controversial practice that Democrats and abortion rights advocates have criticized for being scientifically unproven.
The Republican-held legislature, however, could override Kelly’s veto with a two-thirds majority of each chamber. Doing so would require only one more vote from the Senate.
“I think there’s a strong potential for override,” said Sen. Gene Suellentrop, R-Wichita, noting that two Republican senators were absent from voting that day and would likely be in favor of an override.
Non-surgical, or medical, abortions are carried out with a sequence of pills. The first, Mifepristone, more widely known as RU-486, stops the growth of the fetus by blocking the hormone progesterone. Misoprostol, taken about two days later, makes the uterus contract to complete the abortion, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, or ACOG.
Some pro-choice gynecologists and lawmakers say medical abortions can be halted if the mother is given a dose of the hormone progesterone before the second pill is administered. The hormone is often used to prevent miscarriages.
SB 67 would require doctors to inform abortion patients, either in written or verbal form, that medical abortions can be reversed. Kansans for Life calls the method “pro-science, pro-woman, and proven effective.”
Kelly said Monday that the bill constituted undue interference into women’s reproductive health decisions.
“Senate Bill 67 will interfere with the relationship between patients and their physicians. This unwarranted legislation will create confusion and could be harmful to women’s health,” said Kelly, a Democrat. “The practice of medicine should be left to licensed health professionals, not elected officials.”
Julie Burkhart, founder and CEO of the abortion-rights group Trust Women, applauded Kelly’s veto.
“Women are capable of making complex decisions about their health care and lives without unnecessary interference from anti-choice lawmakers,” Burkhart said in a statement.
Suellentrop said there’s nothing coercive about the measure.
“There’s no forcing anyone into this treatment,” Suellentrop said. “It’s just a notification that the option exists.”
Rep. John Eplee, R-Atchison, introduced the legislation in February, saying it was important to give women all the facts before they go through with an abortion. Eplee did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Kansans for Life, the state’s largest anti-abortion group, said Kelly has done a “disservice to Kansas women” and called on the legislature to override her veto.
“It is ridiculous to paint the protocol as untested, and medically unsound,” Executive Director Mary Kay Culp said. “The bill’s chief sponsor, Dr. John Eplee, is this year’s Kansas Family Practitioner of the Year.”
There have been limited studies on the effects of such a method. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists largely discredits the “reversal” theory, saying that studies are not scientific and that legislative mandates like SB 67 represent “dangerous political interference and compromise patient care and safety.”
On Monday, Planned Parenthood Great Plains lobbyist Rachel Sweet said the organization was thrilled with Kelly’s decision.
“This veto sends a strong message to all Kansans that our governor believes every person has the right to make their own personal medical decisions without political interference,” Sweet said in a statement.
This is Kelly’s second veto since taking office in January. In March, she vetoed SB 22, a Republican-supported tax bill that would have cut taxes on multinational corporations and cost the state millions in annual revenue.
Legislators return to Topeka on May 1.