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Senate overrides governor's veto

September 16, 1999
By: Francie Krantz
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - Abortion rights advocates vow they will file suit today to block the partial-birth abortion ban passed into law by the Thursday Missouri Senate vote to override the governor's veto.

The Missouri Senate voted 27-7 to override the veto, joining the House of Representatives in an overwhelming override of Gov. Mel Carnahan's veto.

Columbia's Sen. Ken Jacob was one of the leaders in efforts to sustain his fellow Democratic governor's veto.

"I feel like I'm talking to a clock that keeps on ticking because it has nothing to say," Jacob said at one point while engaging the bill's sponsor, Ted House, D-St. Charles, in a discussion over the true purpose of the legislation.

Jacob and the governor argue that the bill seeks to ban all abortions, not just procedures involving a partially born fetus.

In the end, however, the governor won over not one single vote from when the Senate originally passed the proposal last spring.

The Senate's decision came only one day after the House voted 127-34 to ban partial-birth abortions, in spite of Carnahan's objections. It is only the third time this century that the Missouri General Assembly has overridden a governor's veto.

House said he was happy about the outcome of the vote and called it a proud moment for the state legislature.

In a statement after the Senate vote, Carnahan called it "an unfortunate day for the women of Missouri."

Carnahan told reporters he could not think of anything he could have done to have changed the outcome.

"I have no regrets about waging this war," he said. "It needed to be done. And, in fact, I could not sleep well at night if we had not done it."

Carnahan repeated his charges that supporters of the bill were seeking to establish a court test of the U.S. Supreme Court's original decision giving women the right to abortions.

"They don't really want a ban, they want a test case and that's what they got," Carnahan said.

Abortion-rights advocates vowed they would file a federal lawsuit seeking to block implementation of the new law as soon as today.

House said he wasn't surprised that such a lawsuit would be filed.

"I welcome the judicial scrutiny if my opponents file for an injunction," House said.

Carnahan left open the possibility of state action to protect abortion clinics, saying "my staff and I will examine what further actions may be necessary as a result of passage of this bill. We remain concerned about assuring the safety of health care workers and the consitutitonal rights of women."

The governor did not elaborate on that statement. During the override debate, he had argued that the bill could incite violence against abortion providers.

Sen. Bill Clay, D-St. Louis City, also voiced his concern that a partial-birth abortion ban would provoke violence in and around abortion clinics, but he said he was more concerned about a lack of access women may now have in receiving abortions.

"We have reached a new lowpoint in Missouri in impeding access to adequate health care," he said.