Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Abortion Battle Focuses on Veto Groups Muster for Push to Cancel Carnahan Action

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Abortion Battle Focuses on Veto Groups Muster for Push to Cancel Carnahan Action

Article excerpt

Sen. Danny Staples' mailbox has been overflowing this summer. The main message, delivered by churchgoers in his southern Missouri district: Vote "yes" to override the governor's veto of "the caregiver bill."

The bill, spiked by Gov. Mel Carnahan in May, would require that women seeking abortions first meet with state-certified counselors. Women could decline the counseling, but they'd have to get a form saying it was offered.

Staples, D-Eminence, voted for the bill last spring. But he is saying "no" this time. His position illustrates how tough it will be for anti-abortion activists to round up enough votes when the veto session begins Sept. 13.

Using its ready-made network, the Missouri Catholic Conference has blanketed parishes with brochures and pre-addressed postcards urging an override. In Ste. Genevieve, priests singled out their senator - Staples - during services.

"We were preached to in church," said Viola Jokerst of Ste. Genevieve. "They had postcards and wanted everybody to mail (Staples) a postcard."

Abortion-rights activists are working the issue, too. Last week, Missourians for Choice mailed a letter from Carnahan to 90,000 voters known to favor abortion rights. The mailing, sent to people in 18 targeted Senate districts, includes a tear-off postcard to send to the senator.

The targeted-voter list helps, "but we don't have those churches," said Beth Flowers, executive director of Missourians for Choice.

No, but the abortion-rights side has two major forces on its side: legislative tradition and partisan loyalty.

Overriding a veto requires a two-thirds vote in each chamber. In 30 years, it has happened only twice. Both chambers are controlled by Democrats, and many, like Staples, don't want to embarrass Carnahan, a fellow Democrat.

"He has been very kind to the 20th Senatorial District, the district I represent," Staples said.

If legislators do override the veto, some predict it will go instantly to court.

Because Carnahan vetoed the bill with five days remaining in the legislative session, he contends that the state constitution required legislators to take the override vote before they adjourned in May.

The Senate has rejected that legal theory, and President Pro Tem James Mathewson, D-Sedalia, said he won't try to block an override vote. Mathewson backed the bill but opposes an override. He'd prefer to fine-tune the bill next year.

Supporters say the bill extends a helping hand to women in crisis pregnancies, linking them with prenatal care, adoption services and educational programs.

"It gives a woman the opportunity to really focus on what she wants," said the House sponsor, Rep. Ron Auer, D-St. Louis. "If she does have her mind made up, all she has to do is sign the verification and proceed" to have an abortion.

But some wonder whether the program would work that smoothly. …

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