Government & Politics

Veto override of ‘abortion pill’ bill falls one vote short. Lawmakers will try again

How abortion access would vary without Roe v. Wade

Different states have different laws in place that will take effect if Roe v. Wade is overturned.
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Different states have different laws in place that will take effect if Roe v. Wade is overturned.

Kansas lawmakers failed by a single vote Wednesday to override Gov. Laura Kelly’s veto of a bill requiring doctors to tell women that the abortion pill can be reversed.

But supporters plan to try again, with all eyes on a Johnson County Republican who broke ranks to back Kelly.

Several Democrats who originally supported the bill voted against the override, but Rep. Jan Kessinger of Overland Park was the sole Republican to reject override after originally backing the legislation. The House fell one vote shy of the margin needed to force the bill into law.

Whatever pressure may come, Kessinger doesn’t plan to change again.

“No, I’m not going to switch,” Kessinger told reporters flatly.

Before Wednesday, the Legislature hadn’t met for several weeks. It was also the first day of session since the Kansas Supreme Court issued a sweeping ruling last week that women have the right to end a pregnancy.

Kessinger said during the break he spoke with constituents on both sides of debate and decided the issue needs more research.

“I don’t believe the Legislature should be in the medical practice,” Kessinger said, adding that he doesn’t believe the bill would hurt anyone but that it’s not necessarily the best medical decision.

Kessinger is under “tremendous pressure,” said Rep. John Carmichael, a Wichita Democrat. “It’s his vote.”

The bill requires doctors to inform abortion patients that medical abortions can be reversed. The procedure is performed with two pills – one that stops the growth of the fetus and another that makes the uterus contract to complete the abortion.

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.”

“This is unnecessary legislation that would interfere with the relationship between women and their physicians. It forces health care providers to adhere to a government mandate not adequately supported by medical science,” Kelly said in a statement. “I’m pleased the legislature sustained my veto.”

Kelly vetoed the bill last month – her second since taking office in January.

On the heels of the Supreme Court decision, lawmakers moved swiftly to try to override the veto as their first order of business Wednesday.

“The idea that we can give an opportunity for a change of heart in deciding to have an abortion is a right that every single woman should have,” said Rep. Brenda Landwehr, a Wichita Republican.

The override effort moved smoothly through the Senate, where 27 senators backed the effort – giving supporters the needed two-thirds support. But it hit a snag in the House, with only 83 representatives voting in favor and 84 needed.

Usually, that is the end of the story. But House Speaker Ron Ryckman, an Olathe Republican, said lawmakers will reconsider the vote – basically a do over. Ryckman added he’s hopeful the new vote will turn out differently.

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Jonathan Shorman covers Kansas politics and the Legislature for The Wichita Eagle and The Kansas City Star. He’s been covering politics for six years, first in Missouri and now in Kansas. He holds a journalism degree from the University of Kansas.