In the final days of its 2019 session, the Republican-dominated Kansas Legislature is fielding calls to amend the state Constitution to limit abortion, as the GOP supermajority prepares to override a veto to require women’s health professionals to inform patients of a disputed treatment to stop a medication-induced abortion.
The calls for a constitutional amendment follow the Kansas Supreme Court’s ruling on Friday that upheld a woman’s right to an abortion. But any movement on an amendment will have to wait for 2020, a state lawmaker says.
“It will likely be delayed until next legislative session,” state Rep. Tom Cox, Shawnee Republican, told The Washington Times, calling the Legislature’s remaining 11 days a “very tight timeline.”
In a 6-1 decision after two years of deliberation, the state Supreme Court ruled that the opening section of the Bill of Rights in the Kansas Constitution, which protects personal autonomy, guarantees a woman’s right to an abortion.
“This right allows a woman to make her own decisions regarding her body, health, family formation and family life — decisions that can include whether to continue a pregnancy,” the court majority said in its ruling.
The decision upheld a Shawnee County trial judge’s preliminary injunction against the 2015 Kansas Unborn Child Protection from Dismemberment Abortion Act, which bans the dilation-and-extraction procedure. The trial court found that 95% of second trimester abortions in Kansas use the procedure.
The state Supreme Court majority also said the 2015 law, signed by then-Gov. Sam Brownback, would violate the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1992 ruling in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which prohibits a state from placing an “undue burden” on women’s access to reproductive health services.
In a fiery, 85-page dissent, Justice Caleb Stegall questioned the majority’s reasoning on natural law, employing references to Lewis Carroll and Abraham Lincoln.
“How can European theorists who died long before America’s founding tell us anything about whether the Kansas Constitution contains a right to abortion?” wrote Justice Stegall, who was appointed by Mr. Brownback.
Pro-life activists and lawmakers across the country have been encouraged by the conservative majority in the. Supreme Court in hopes of overturning the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized abortion.
Kansas pro-life activists pounced on the state Supreme Court ruling with calls for an amendment: Because the state Constitution protects the right to an abortion, the procedure would be legal in Kansas even if the Supreme Court overturns Roe.
“There is a lot of political outrage,” Brittany Jones, director of advocacy for Family Policy Alliance, told The Washington Times. “It’s also one of the most contemptuous rulings I’ve ever read.”
The Legislature’s final session days usually are reserved for veto overrides. Ms. Jones said lawmakers could suspend rules and introduce new legislation, but a lot would need to happen in a short time.
“It’s always a potential,” she said. “We have to gauge other political factors, however, and find the correct language [for any amendment].”
Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly, a pro-choice Democrat, vetoed a bill this session that would have required clinics and doctors to inform patients who have taken the first of two medication abortion pills about a disputed treatment to stop the abortion if the second pill has not yet been taken.
The Legislature appears to have the two-thirds majority to override her veto when it returns Wednesday.