Kansas governor vetoes bills dealing with ‘abortion reversal’, mail-in ballots, child care
Republicans blast vetoes; Democrat House leader blames election restrictions on ‘small group of vocal loonies’
Gov. Laura Kelly overruled several bills during a second round of vetoes before the Legislature returns in April. (Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)
TOPEKA— Gov. Laura Kelly shot down a scientifically unsound “abortion reversal” bill, one of several pieces of legislation she rejected in a round of vetoes met with outrage from Republicans.
Kelly announced her veto of House Bill 2264 Wednesday. The bill would require doctors and medication abortion providers to tell their patients that it is possible to reverse an abortion after taking mifepristone.
Under the bill, physicians who refuse to talk to their patients about “abortion reversal” on more than one occasion could face up to a year of jail time. Health care facilities that prescribe or administer mifepristone would be fined $10,000 if they refuse to put up the mandatory notice.
Kelly referenced the Aug. 2, 2022, vote on a proposed abortion amendment, which Kansans overwhelmingly rejected, in her veto explanation.
“Kansans made clear that they believe personal health care decisions should be made between a woman and her doctor, not politicians in Topeka,” Kelly said. “This bill would interfere with that relationship and, given the uncertain science behind it, could be harmful to Kansans’ health.”
The “abortion reversal” claim is based on questionable research, and studies have shown the reversal attempt has significant health risks for women. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists opposes the abortion reversal process, calling it scientifically unsound, unproven and unethical.
Republicans who support the legislation point to a debunked study by California physician George Delgado to support the claim that the pregnancy could be preserved if progesterone is taken within a certain time period after the abortion pill.
House Speaker Dan Hawkins, a Wichita Republican, said he and other Republicans would attempt to override Kelly’s veto after the Legislature returns next week.
“House Republicans stand united to act during the veto session to ensure women in this incredibly vulnerable position are provided with all of the facts,” Hawkins said.
The bill passed 26-11 in the Senate and 80-38 in the House. To override Kelly’s vetoes, 84 votes are needed in the House and 27 are needed in the Senate.
Senate Minority Leader Dinah Sykes, a Lenexa Democrat, said the bill was an attempt to force doctors to lie about abortion.
“This bill attempts to undermine Kansans’ right to bodily autonomy by willfully forcing blatant misinformation into a health care environment,” Sykes said. “We all want women to be empowered to make the best decision for herself and her family. Lying to women does not empower them; it endangers them.”
Kelly also vetoed Senate Bill 209, legislation requiring advanced ballots to be returned to the local election office by 7 p.m. on election day.
Current law requires ballots to be postmarked by election day and received within three business days later.
The bill, which passed the House 76-48 and the Senate 23-14, is one of several election measures attempted by Kansas Republicans to placate voters who believe Kansas elections are at risk of voter fraud.
Republican Secretary of State Scott Schwab has consistently defended the validity of Kansas elections, and there has been no evidence of voter fraud in the state. Still, Hawkins said the bill was a necessary security measure.
“With the Postal Service no longer postmarking most mail, it is impossible to know if a late arriving ballot was mailed by election day,” Hawkins said. “Governor Kelly’s veto continues to allow potentially illegal ballots to be counted.”
Critics of the bill have said it will have a chilling effect on voting and cause valid ballots to be thrown away.
Kelly said the legislation would damage military Kansans serving overseas who may have trouble getting their ballots in on time. Kelly said rural Kansans also would be harmed by the bill.
“It would also likely result in too many rural Kansans not having their votes counted in important elections,” Kelly said. “That is unacceptable. We should be doing everything we can to make it easier — not harder — for Kansans to make their voices heard at the ballot box.”
House Minority Leader Vic Miller pointed out that legislators voted to implement the three-day grace period in 2017. Miller said taking the window away now was an attempt to discredit Kansas’ electoral process.
“There is a clear reason we have such an anti-democratic bill before the Legislature right now: A small group of vocal loonies who can’t tolerate losing,” Miller said. “They’re sore losers — pure and simple. They scream about voter fraud and spread disinformation. Repeated enough, people start to believe it.”
Child care requirements
Kelly’s third veto announced Wednesday was House Bill 2344, which loosens standards for child care providers.
The legislation would reduce employee training requirements, lower the minimum age of staff and increase the ratio of adults-to-children in facilities in an attempt to alleviate the state’s severe child care shortages.
The Senate passed the bill 21-17, and the House approved the legislation 77-46.
“While I agree it’s time to review our child care policies, we must do it together — and in a way that improves, not harms, our state’s ability to help families and keep kids safe,” Kelly said.
John Wilson, president and CEO of Kansas Action for Children, supported Kelly’s veto. Wilson said loosening regulations would be dangerous for the health of the children enrolled in child care centers.
“Great care must always be taken when it involves our smallest kids, and sadly, this bill would have jeopardized the safety of not only kids in care but also providers,” Wilson said. “Everyone agrees that more must be done to solve the child care crisis, but the solution isn’t to rush through legislation that hasn’t been informed by the child care community and those who understand the industry best.”
Hawkins said House Republicans would fight Kelly’s veto.
“One of the biggest issues facing Kansas families is a lack of child care options,” Hawkins said. “Governor Kelly’s veto reinforces the failed status quo by choosing overregulation over workable solutions.”
Senate President Ty Masterson, R-Andover, said Kelly’s rejection of the three bills proved that Kelly was trying to steer Kansas to the left, rather than work across the aisle.
“Today, she signaled she wants an endless counting of ballots, she said no to improved access to child care to help working parents, and she even rejected providing women critical information about how to reverse a medication abortion,” Masterson said.
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