On Thursday, the governor of Kansas vetoed a bill aimed at restricting access to late-term abortions. It also permits a woman's family members to sue abortion providers without her consent.
The move comes two weeks after born-again Christian Scott Roeder was sentenced to life in prison for shooting doctor George Tiller to death in the foyer of his Wichita, Kansas church.
AdvertisementTiller, 67, was one of a handful of doctors in the United States who performed abortions during the third trimester of pregnancy and his clinic was closed in the wake of his May 2009 slaying.
"I was certainly hopeful, and so were lots of people on various sides of the abortion issue, that the legislature would refrain from taking up controversial abortion bills this session given the trauma of Dr. Tiller's assassination," Peter Brownlie, chief executive of Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri, told AFP.
Brownlie welcomed the veto and said he wished the legislature would focus on passing the state's budget rather than engaging in "a sham exercise in political posturing."
Abortion opponents insist that the restrictions are necessary to prevent a new clinic from opening in Kansas.
Neighboring Nebraska passed a law on Tuesday prohibiting abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, a measure intended to target one the few remaining providers of late-term abortions.
That law is expected to face constitutional challenges, but abortion opponents expressed concern that the target of the measure, Nebraska doctor LeRoy Carhart, would now move his practice to Kansas.
"This veto could cause Kansas to reassume the title as the Late-term Abortion Capital," said Operation Rescue President Troy Newman.
"This bill would have helped law enforcement agencies determine if late-term abortions done after viability are being done in compliance with the law," Newman said in a statement.
"That sounds like a no-brainer, but in Kansas, governmental cover-up for abortion abuses is a way of life."
The Supreme Court has since its landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision prohibited states from restricting access to abortions prior to fetal viability -- which is generally seen to be somewhere around 24 weeks.
States must also allow women access to abortions if the pregnancy threatens their health.
In Kansas, doctors may perform abortions if they consider the pregnancy poses a risk to the mental health of the patient -- a provision that abortion opponents claim means some procedures are carried out for reasons as flimsy as not wanting to miss a school dance.
While providers must prove to a second consenting physician that continuing the pregnancy would constitute a serious harm to the woman, they are not required to report their diagnoses to Kansas state regulators.
Governor Mark Parkinson said he believes the state's existing abortion laws strike a "reasonable balance on a very difficult issue" and chastised state legislators for essentially reintroducing a bill which had been vetoed in the past two sessions by his predecessor.
"My view is that all abortions are tragedies, which is why I would encourage women who have unwanted pregnancies to consult with their partners, families, doctors and spiritual advisors," he said in a statement.
"I would not encourage women to consult with state legislators, as this is a private decision and should not be dictated by public officials."