by Joe Bollig
TOPEKA — The pithiest analysis of the 2009-2010 Kansas legislative session can be found in the wisdom of Yogi Berra: It’s like déjà vu all over again.
Again, a governor of Kansas used veto powers to kill pro-life legislation and restore funding to Planned Parenthood.
In 2008, Gov. Kathleen Sebelius vetoed the Comprehensive Abortion Reform Act, which strengthened reporting requirements for late-term abortions.
This year, those requirements were contained in Senate Bill 2115, which passed both houses but was vetoed by Gov. Mark Parkinson on April 15.
In 2009, Parkinson vetoed a bill that would have prevented Planned Parenthood of Kansas from receiving federal family planning funding. (And he cut funding for the Sen. Stan Clark Pregnancy Maintenance Initiative, which helps women facing crisis pregnancies). On May 27, he vetoed nearly identical legislation that, again, would have prevented Planned Parenthood from receiving $375,000 of federal family planning funding.
By these actions, Parkinson has perpetuated the Kansas paradox: a state that has some of the nation’s strongest pro-life laws on the books, but one of the friendliest political-legal environments for abortion providers in the nation.
“What we are up against, and have been for some time, for any pro-life legislation, is it’s not enough for us to get a simple majority,” said Michael Schuttloffel, executive director of the Kansas Catholic Conference. “We have to get a veto-proof majority, which is a lot more challenging.”
Year after year, the Kansas Catholic Conference works diligently to line up votes for pro-life legislation, only to see promising legislation blocked by a pro-choice governor.
“It’s a challenge to motivate legislators,” he said. “A lot of them just throw up their hands and say, ‘What’s the point? It’s going to get vetoed anyway.’”
The potential harm from these vetoes is even greater this year, because surrounding states have strengthened their pro-life laws, thus making Kansas a more attractive state for abortionists.
“We’re really unique in that we’re a traditional values state in the Heartland that, nevertheless, has a uniquely hospitable climate for the abortion industry,” said Schuttloffel.
According to Kansas law, an abortion can only be performed past the point of viability for a fetus — roughly 22 weeks — if there is grave danger to the life or health of the mother, said Schuttloffel.
In actual practice, late-term abortions in Kansas have been done for any and all reasons. People travel from all over the nation to Kansas clinics, and Kansas has become the late-term abortion capital of the United States.
Schuttloffel hopes that a remedy for the Kansas paradox can be found in the next election, and the advent of stronger, pro-life leadership.
“However, we’re very hopeful that we will be in store for some pro-life leadership next year,” he said. “We’re hoping that not only means we could get some bills signed, but we will only need a simple majority — that’s hoping that we’ll have pro-life leadership in the governor’s mansion, and there’s no guarantee of that.”