UPDATE: Legislature passes late-term abortion bill

LATE, LATE Update: The House passed the bill 83-36, one vote shy of a veto proof majority. The measure now goes to the governor.

TOPEKA – The Senate passed a late-term abortion bill after a debate that focused mostly on procedural motions.

 The Senate passed the measure 24-15. Gov. Kathleen Sebelius vetoed a similar measure last year. The Senate needs 27 votes to override a veto.

The measure, inserted into House Bill 2115, which used to deal with utility regulations, would require doctors to provide the specific medical diagnosis that justified a late-term abortion.

The bill would also allow a woman, her husband or parents if she is younger than 18 to sue an abortion provider if they believe a late-term abortion was performed illegally.

Additionally, the bill would define a viable fetus as one where “there is a reasonable probability that the life of the child can be continued indefinitely outside the mother’s womb with natural or artificial life-supportive measures.”

Kansas allows late-term abortions to be performed in restricted circumstances after the 21st week of pregnancy. Dr. George Tiller of Wichita was one of a handful of physicians providing late-term abortions in the country; he was shot to death in his church last May. His Wichita clinic has since shut down.

Several lawmakers criticized the motion because the language was inserted into a utility bill and negotiated in the Utility Committee.

Sen. Vicki Schmidt, R-Topeka, asked if that committee had ever previously heard a bill dealing with women’s reproductive issues.

“This is a mockery of how we handle issues in the Senate if this is the road we are going to go down on conference committee reports,” she said.

Other lawmakers complained that the measure, and a similar one last year, was never debated in the Senate and no Senate committee had held hearings on the issue.

Sen. Tim Owens, R-Overland Park, who has in the past voted for bills similar to the measure debated Tuesday, passed on the vote in protest over the procedure. “It was inappropriate for this to be in the committee it was in.”

NOTE: The bill’s language has not yet been updated on the legislative site, so a search for HB 2115 will still reflect the original bill addressing utilities.

UPDATE: The Senate rejected, 16-24, a motion to table the bill and end the debate.

UPDATE2: The Senate moved the measure to final action on a procedural motion that stopped debate.

NOTE: 

I finally found a copy of the conference committee report online which outlines the bill debates. Here is a link http://skyways.lib.ks.us/ksleg/KLRD/2010ConfCommRpts/Ccrb211500182.pdf

Just to clarify, it isn’t uncommon for lawmakers to strip the original language out of a bill and stick in an entirely new bill. In statehouse parlance it’s called a “gut and go.”

What was unusual was the bill used in this instance. It started out addressing underground utility damage prevention. It would have been more common to see the measure inserted into some bill related to health care or medical issues and go through a different committee.