Governor vetoes Kansas bill on live birth during abortion

TOPEKA, Kansas (AP) — Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly on Friday vetoed a bill that could have penalized doctors accused of not providing enough care to babies born alive during certain types of of abortion procedures.

In a statement on her website, Kelly, a Democrat, called the legislation “misleading and unnecessary.”

The legislation could have subjected doctors to criminal lawsuits and charges in certain types of abortions and in circumstances where doctors induce labor to deliver a fetus that is expected to die within minutes or even seconds outside the womb.

“Federal law already protects newborns and the procedure outlined in this bill does not exist in Kansas in the modern medical age,” Kelly said Friday. “The intent of this bill is to interfere in medical decisions that should remain between doctors and their patients.”

The Republican-controlled Kansas Legislature gave its final approval to the bill earlier this month, and in both chambers, the bill passed with a veto-proof majority. Still, the bill’s fate has been uncertain in a legal and political climate that has made Kansas an outlier in abortion policy among states with GOP-led legislatures.

Kansas Senate President Ty Masterson promised in a statement that the Senate would act quickly to override Kelly’s veto.

Even if they are successful, the measure could still be challenged in court and not enforced. The lawsuits have prevented Kansas from enforcing a 2015 ban on a common second-trimester abortion procedure and a 2011 law imposing additional health and safety rules for abortion providers.

Kansas abortion opponents have not pushed to ban abortion entirely despite the US Supreme Court’s June 2022 decision that the US Constitution allows it. The Kansas Supreme Court ruled in 2019 that access to abortion is a “fundamental” right under the state constitution, and in August 2022, voters decisively rejected a proposed change to remove abortion-right protections.

Kansas For Life spokeswoman Danielle Underwood issued a statement calling Kelly’s veto “ruthless” and calling on Kansans to urge lawmakers to overturn the governor’s decision.

“These babies deserve protection and the same medical attention as any other newborn of the same gestational age. This shows once again how out of touch Governor Kelly is with the values ​​of the people of Kansas,” Underwood said.

Senate Democratic Leader Dinah Sykes said there are no circumstances in Kansas in which a baby could be born alive during an abortion.

“It just doesn’t happen,” Sykes said in a statement. “The reality is that this legislation would harm mothers and health care teams who will be forced by law to try to provide care that does not change a tragic outcome, instead of giving families the dignity to grieve in peace.”

In Kansas, there have been no reported abortions after the 21st week since at least 2016 and, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, less than 1% of the more than 600,000 abortions a year occur after the 21st week. of the 21st week of pregnancy. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists says that almost no fetus is viable before the 23rd week of pregnancy.

The Kansas measure is similar to laws in several other states that require babies born alive during labor and miscarriages to go to a hospital and impose criminal penalties on doctors who fail to provide the same care as a provider. “reasonably diligent and conscientious” would toast other live births. It’s also similar to a proposed law that Montana voters rejected in November.

Under the bill, failing to provide reasonable care to a newborn would be a felony, punishable by one year of probation for a first-time offender. In addition, the parents of the newborn and the parents or guardians of minors seeking abortions could sue the providers.

Critics have said the state would intervene in difficult medical and ethical decisions between doctors and parents. They also said that parents could be forced to accept useless and expensive care.

Supporters have said the move was necessary and viewed it as a humanitarian issue.


This story has been corrected to remove an erroneous reference to Kelly vetoing a similar bill in 2019.


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