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It's Back!

September 10, 1997
By: Margaret Murphy
State Capital Bureau

NOTE: The roll-call vote on the motion to override the governor's veto is available from Missouri Digital News at http://www.mdn.org/1997/XGR/VOTES/VOTE920.HTM

JEFFERSON CITY - Less than an hour after his legislative victory in which the Missouri Senate upheld Gov. Mel Carnahan's veto of the partial birth abortion bill, the governor indicated he will put the issue back on the table for legislators to deal with during the special session of the legislature.

Senators failed to override the governor's veto by just one vote, 22-12. A two-thirds vote - or 23 votes -- was required for an override. Twenty-eight senators voted in favor of the bill when it passed the Senate in April.

Anti-abortion forces packed the Senate's visitor's galleries as member after member rose to speak.

Those most critical speech came from Sen. Betty Sims, R-St. Louis County. She was the only Republican to support the Democratic governor's veto.

"I can honestly tell you that no issue before this chamber has cause me so much personal, internal conflict and emotional soul searching," said Sims, who had voted in favor of the bill in April.

Sims said she changed her mind because she now believes the language in the bill is deliberately vague, and could include a ban on procedures that are now legal in the second trimester of pregnancy.

In addition to Sims, seven Democrats who had voted for the bill last spring voted against overriding the governor's veto.

After the vote, governor's aides circulated outside the chambers saying the governor had all but decided to expanding the call of the legislature's special session to include a partial birth abortion ban with "language that will pass constitutional muster," said Chris Sifford, the governor's spokesman.

Lawmakers had expected to wrap up the special session on economic development tax breaks and tourism taxes by the end of this week. But addition of the abortion issue assures the session will continue through next week -- if not longer.

Later at a news conference, Carnahan said that while he also opposed partial birth abortions, the bill he vetoed took a "flawed approach that didn't include protection for the mother's health."

The governor has objected that the bill did not include an exemption for a case in which the doctor determines the procedure is necessary to protect the woman's health.

"All of us agree partial-birth abortion should be banned," Carnahan said. He added praise for senators who, "in spite of great pressure from special interests, stood up for our citizens."

Carnahan said he did not know of a single instance in which the procedure was actually used in Missouri, the governor said he planned to drop the issue into the special session's agenda instead of waiting until the regular session convened in January, he said, "it's an appropriate time to deal with the subject."

The bill's sponsor, Sen. Peter Kinder, R-Cape Giraradeau, said it was the governor's promise of including the issue in the special session that prevented an override.

Carnahan confirmed that he had discussed including the issue before the special session in private discussions with senators just prior to the override vote. But the governor said he had the votes to sustain his veto before the discussions began. "We had the votes before," Carnahan proclaimed.

Kinder repeatedly quoted Abraham Lincoln in urging the Senate to override the governor's veto.

"The world knows that we know what is right to do here today," Kinder said, calling the debate "the fiery trial through which we pass today."

Sen. Ken Jacob, D-Columbia, voted against the override, arguing that the ban was unconstitutional.

"There is no chance that anybody will ever be affected by this statute," Jacob said. "Tomorrow there would be an injunction filed, and the state would have to spend a lot of money defending it. We continually get caught in these bills that make no sense and are unconstitutional."