News & Commentary

Kansas Legislature successfully overrides governor’s vetoes of 4 pro-life measures

The Kansas Capitol in Topeka is seen in this undated photo. The Kansas Legislature voted April 29, 2024, to override four vetoes on pro-life bills that state Catholic and pro-life advocates say will help save lives. (OSV News photo/Lori Wood Habiger, The Leaven)

(OSV News) — Kansas lawmakers voted to override Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly’s vetoes on pro-life legislation, a victory hailed by Catholic and pro-life advocates that comes just two years after voters in Kansas rejected a push to remove abortion protections from their state constitution.

“We had four life-affirming pieces of legislation that had been vetoed by the governor, and yesterday, with the help and support of our legislators, we were able to override the governor’s vetoes,” Lucrecia Nold, policy specialist for the Kansas Catholic Conference, told OSV News.

Among the four vetoed bills the Legislature overrode was a measure requiring health care providers to ask women to anonymously report their primary reason for seeking an abortion to compile the data for the state health agency.

Under that law, women undergoing an abortion would have the ability to opt out of the survey. A majority of states have implemented some type of abortion data reporting.

Another measure rescued by the Legislature criminalizes coercing pregnant women into undergoing an abortion.

In an April 30 email to supporters, the Kansas Catholic Conference said, “We were successful in our advocacy of four Pro-Life measures, overriding the Governor’s veto in each instance.”

“The Kansas Pregnancy Compassion act will again be funded, providing grant dollars to Pregnancy Resource Centers (PRCs) and Maternity Homes,” it said. “These organizations will also benefit from a new tax credit law that financially encourages donations. Coerced abortion is now a crime.”

The Catholic Church teaches that all human life is sacred from conception to natural death, opposing direct abortion as an act of violence that takes the life of the unborn child.

On the measure requiring health care providers to ask women about their reason for undergoing an abortion, Nold told OSV News the bill “just adds an additional question to that reporting, which is the reason why the woman chose abortion.”

“She is obviously free to decline and regardless of her answer, her personal and private information remains safe and secure,” Nold said.

The Kansas Catholic Conference explained in its email message the data collection will help better serve women.

“We will have better data available as to WHY women have an abortion, allowing us to better help women in unplanned pregnancies,” it said. “These are all great steps forward!”

Critics of the reporting measure called it invasive to ask for a rationale.

“As is often the case with legislation dealing with a woman’s right to choose, we want to make it vague and more difficult for that person making that difficult decision,” Sen. Pat Pettey, D-Kansas City, told The Kansas City Star. “I find this to be invasive and really disrespectful of those women who have decided to make this difficult decision to have an abortion.”

Jeanne Gawdun, director of government relations at Kansans for Life, said in a April 29 statement, “We saw democracy in action with four bipartisan votes” to override Kelly’s vetoes of the “commonsense, life-affirming policies.”

Gawdun said those measures include efforts to combat coerced abortions and human trafficking, tax credits for donations to pregnancy help centers and an increase to the adoption tax credit, bolstering anonymous abortion data reporting, and reauthorizing $2 million in grant funding for pregnancy centers.

“Each of these proposals will help address a truth that the vast majority of Kansans believe: that too many women feel abortion is their only choice,” Gawdun said. “Now is the time to utilize these new tools and get to work helping women and saving as many babies from the profit-driven abortion industry as possible.”

In a first post-Dobbs test case, voters in Kansas in 2022 rejected a ballot measure that would have stripped existing protections for abortion from the state’s constitution, in what was the first ballot referendum on the issue following the U.S. Supreme Court’s Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision that year that overturned prior rulings by the high court making abortion access a constitutional right.

After the Dobbs decision, Catholic leaders in the United States reiterated the church’s concern for both mother and child, and called to strengthen streams of financial aid or other practical support addressing the factors that can push women toward having an abortion.

Asked about Kansas enacting pro-life measures, even after voters opted to keep abortion protected under the state constitution, Nold said, “I think it shows that we as Kansans still care about both mother and child.”

Nold stressed the need to “give women all options and all resources available” to choose life, as well as supporting pregnancy resource centers.

“They are on the frontlines helping these women and families with unplanned pregnancies,” she said.

By Kate Scanlon | OSV News