Kansas Legislature overrides governor’s veto of anti-abortion bill

‘Born alive’ bill becomes law; House also votes for abortion pill reversal, insurance restriction

By: - April 26, 2023 3:36 pm
Clockwise from left, Poskin, Woodard, Hoye, Ruiz, Feb. 13, 2023

Rep. Susan Ruiz, front center, says women know the Kansas Supreme Court recognized the right to bodily autonomy and the Legislature is trying to take it away. (Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)

TOPEKA — The GOP-dominated Legislature took aim Wednesday at Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly’s veto of three anti-abortion bills, ignoring objections about state-mandated misinformation, alienating OB-GYN workers and ignoring the will of voters.

The House and Senate completed a veto override of legislation requiring medical care for babies who are “born alive,” which means House Bill 2313 will become law. The House also voted to override vetoes for two other laws that the Senate could consider Thursday.

Republican leaders have pursued anti-abortion legislation without regard for the 59-41 statewide vote in August 2022 to reject a constitutional amendment stripping women of the right to terminate a pregnancy.

The governor vetoed an assortment of anti-abortion bills passed by lawmakers before they adjourned earlier this month. They include House Bill 2325, which bans abortion providers from buying liability insurance from a state fund, and House Bill 2264, which requires physicians to give patients medically inaccurate information about the potential to reverse the abortion pill.

Rep. Susan Ruiz, a Shawnee Democrat, said she was insulted by the name of the reversal bill, which is known as the “Woman’s Right to Know Act.”

“Here’s what women really know: The Kansas Supreme Court affirmed bodily autonomy to women in Kansas, and this Legislature is trying to take it away,” Ruiz said.

The “born alive” bill requires medical care for infants extracted from the mother with a beating heart or ability to breathe, under the false pretense that “failed abortions” are performed on infants that are capable of surviving. Kansas law bans abortion at 22 weeks from gestation, except to save the life of a mother.

Rep. Ron Bryce, a Republican physician from Coffeyville, said he personally provided aid to 27 babies who survived an abortion.

“We are moral people,” Bryce said. “We provide care for those who are weak, for those who are disadvantaged, for those who are innocent and powerless.”

A veto override requires the support of two-thirds of the members of both chambers. Those thresholds are 84 votes in the House and 27 in the Senate.

The House overrode the veto of the abortion pill reversal and liability insurance bills on 84-40 votes, and overrode the veto of the “born alive” bill on an 87-37 vote. The Senate overrode the veto of the “born alive” bill on a 31-9 vote.

The abortion pill reversal bill would require clinics, hospitals and pharmacies where the medication is prescribed or dispensed to post a conspicuous sign that is clearly visible to patients with lettering at least 3/4 of an inch in boldfaced type that says it may be possible to reverse the intended effects of mifepristone. Physicians also must provide information about the reversal before administering the abortion pill.

Mifepristone is used for about two-thirds of abortions in Kansas.

Research supporting the claim that the abortion pill can be reversed by taking a another drug has been debunked. Other research has shown reversal attempts to be hazardous to women’s health.

“What I hear over and over and over and over from those of us who are not pro life, I hear, ‘Trust women. Trust women,’ ” said Rep. Clarke Sanders, a Salina Republican. “Do you really believe that? If you really believe ‘trust women,’ you’re going to vote to override this veto. Women have a right to know this. They can make a decision about whether or not they want to try to change the decision they made initially about having a chemical abortion.”

The third piece of legislation bans abortion providers from obtaining liability insurance through the Health Care Stabilization Fund, which all physicians are required to contribute to. However, the bill allows “maternity centers” to have access to the fund.

“These bills are going to drive providers out of our state, and we already have a problem in rural Kansas,” said Rep. Melissa Oropeza, a Democrat from Kansas City. “This will continue to alienate new providers from coming into our state.”

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Sherman Smith
Sherman Smith

Sherman Smith is the editor in chief of Kansas Reflector. He writes about things that powerful people don't want you to know. A two-time Kansas Press Association journalist of the year, his award-winning reporting includes stories about education, technology, foster care, voting, COVID-19, sex abuse, and access to reproductive health care. Before founding Kansas Reflector in 2020, he spent 16 years at the Topeka Capital-Journal. He graduated from Emporia State University in 2004, back when the school still valued English and journalism. He was raised in the country at the end of a dead end road in Lyon County.