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Abortion Bill Vetoed

State Capital Bureau

May 04, 1995

See rollcalls votes on final passage of the abortion-counseling bill in the House and the Senate.

JEFFERSON CITY _ Gov. Mel Carnahan vetoed a controversial abortion-counseling bill Thursday (May 4), igniting a constitutional debate with the proposal's supporters.

The governor decried anti-abortion efforts by what he dubbed "extremist forces" during this year's session.

The governor said the abortion-counseling bill would have created "mandatory government interference" into women's private lives.

It would have require a woman to seek an outside counselor before having an abortion.

Carnahan's veto was calculated to force abortion foes to attempt an override before the legislative session ends one week from today _ and when supporters appear to be short of the needed votes.

A two-thirds majority in both the House and Senate is required for an override. When the bill passed the House, it fell eleven votes short of a two-thirds majority.

The governor expressed confidence his veto would stand. "I believe we have the votes to sustain the veto," Carnahan said.

But bill backers challenge interpretations from the governor's office about when the override vote must be taken.

At issue is whether the legislature must attempt an override before this session adjourns May 12 or can delay an override until the legislature returns _ giving supporters more time to line up votes.

There is no specific answer in the state constitution.

The constitution provides that a bill vetoed in the last five days of a session is considered in a special veto session in the fall.

But there is no specific provision covering a veto which comes before the final five days, like the abortion-bill veto.

Carnahan's office argues the veto can be considered only during the current session.

The bill's principle author, argues an override vote can be delayed until the September veto session or until the next regular session that will begin January 1996.

"There are no words in the constitution that expressly say what the governor says," said Lou DeFeo, a lobbyist for the Catholic Conference.

"The governor is trying a little trickery," DeFeo said. "I don't intend to play by his artificial rules. We don't have to."

The bill's sponsor, Sen. John Schneider, D-St. Louis County, said the hectic last days of the session aren't an ideal time to vote on whether to override a veto.

Schneider said he fears the governor will use his position to win over crucial votes. Carnahan has the sway to offer appointments or promise funding for university building in exchange for votes, Schneider said.

Lawmakers decide when they want to challenge a veto, Schneider argued. "The constitution is interpreted liberally in favor of the legislature."

Schneider disputed Carnahan's description of the bill as "unjustified, flawed and intrusive" and violative of a woman's right to privacy.

"All this bill does is make sure that a woman is offered assistance and alternatives," Schneider added. "When a woman is in trouble like that, they ought to be offered assistance."

But Carnahan said the bill would give government the right to intrude into personal decisions and expose women to "emotionally traumatic situations."

In his veto message, the governor wrote that the will would require "Missouri families to submit to unwanted intrusion by state government without any consideration as to whether they will benefit or be harmed by that intrusion...Such intrusion is offensive and demeaning to the women and families who must face the difficult question of whether to end a pregnancy."

If an anti-abortion counselor refused to sign a waiver allowing a woman to have an abortion, the woman would have to make a public declaration of her intentions, Carnahan said.

"This is outrageous," he said. "I can't possibly imagine that most Missourians would want a woman to have to suffer that kind of humiliation."

In Tuesday's press conference, Carnahan leveled at anti-abortion forces some of harshest language he's used as governor criticizing them for efforts to tie anti-abortion provisions to other bills.

"They've been doing some strange things and there are some extreme forces at work," Carnahan said. "I think the extreme anti-choice groups have tried to make every issue into an abortion issue."

Asked, at one point, if he included the Catholic Conference Church in his criticism of extremist forces, the governor replied "I have not so labeled them and would not."

The governor expressed frustration lawmakers have stalled on other measures such as a tax limit, juvenile crime and health care.

"It has been a disappointing session," Carnahan said. "There has been a lot of strife, a lot of partisanship."

He suggested he might call a special session if the juvenile crime bill is not passed and might mount an petition campaign to put the tax limit proposal on the ballot.

In other legislative action Thursday:

@ The House approved the Senate-passed "potty parity" bill. It would require public amusement buildings, such as arenas, to have equal numbers of toilets for women and men.

The bill goes back to the Senate for consideration of House changes. The House dropped the Senate provision requiring compliance by January 1, 2002. Under the House version, facilities only have to comply when they make major renovations.

The House also tacked on a requirement that construction projects provide at least one portable toilet for every 20 people on the site.

@ The Missouri Senate rejected a Republican-sponsored to toughen the administration's tax lid proposal.

The original proposal, drafted by the Missouri Farm Bureau and included in Carnahan's legislative agenda, would require voter approval whenever the legislature passes tax increases exceeding $50 million in a year.

The amendment to lower the tax limit was sponsored by Sen. Marvin Singleton, R-Seneca, to lower that limit to $35 million. It was defeated on a near straight party-line vote.