Saying government "must not play God," Gov. George Sinner vetoed what would have been the nation's strictest state abortion law. The state House on Tuesday failed to override his veto.

"The single underlying, fundamental issue was the denial, the absolute denial of abortion to a lot of people," Sinner, the father of 10 and a Roman Catholic who had once considered becoming a priest, said Monday.The governor did sign a bill requiring women to wait 24 hours before getting an abortion.

Tuesday, the House vote was eight votes short of the 71 needed to override Sinner's veto, voting 63-43 to reverse the governor.

"Yes, it is restrictive, but there is not much room for maneuvering before it is abortion on demand," argued Republican Rep. Dagne Olsen, urging House members to override Sinner. "That's what our people do not want."

The vetoed bill would have banned abortions except in cases of rape, incest or if the mother's life was in danger. Only those who perform illegal abortions would be prosecuted, with a maximum penalty of a year in jail and a $1,000 fine.

"Government must not overstep its bounds. It must not play God," the governor, a Democrat, said in his veto message.

The bill passed the House and Senate by less than the two-thirds margin needed to override a veto. The House was seven votes short, the Senate four.

Sinner has vetoed 34 bills since taking office in 1985. Six vetoes came this session. None of his vetoes has been overriden.

"It's unfortunate that the governor didn't possess the wisdom or the fortitude to sign it," said Republican Rep. Frank Wald, the bill's main sponsor. "The veto's a temporary setback, but eventually this cause has to prevail."