Culture

Kansas high court reaffirms right to abortion in the state


By John Hanna | Associated Press

TOPEKA, Kan. — Kansas’ highest court strongly reaffirmed Friday that the state constitution protects abortion access, striking down a ban on a common second-trimester procedure and laws regulating abortion providers more strictly than other health care providers.

The pair of 5-1 decisions suggests that other restrictions — even ones decades on the books — might not withstand legal challenges. The court’s dissenting justice, widely seen as its most conservative, warned that Kansas is headed toward “a legal regime of unrestricted access to abortion.”

“This is an immense victory for the health, safety, and dignity of people in Kansas and the entire Midwestern region, where millions have been cut off from abortion access,” said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, which represented the abortion providers challenging the two laws.

The decisions came almost two years after an August 2022 statewide vote decisively affirming abortion rights, the first such vote after the U.S. Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision in June 2022 that allowed states to ban abortion altogether. Kansas voters rejected a proposed change in the state constitution approved by the Republican-controlled Legislature to declare that the document provides no right to abortion.

Republican Attorney General Kris Kobach’s office had argued that the 2022 vote didn’t matter in determining whether the two laws could stand. But Justice Evelyn Wilson, one of three justices appointed to the seven-member court after its landmark 2019 decision, said that while she might have dissented then, “The people spoke with their votes.”

“The results were accepted by the people, and Kansas showed the world how things are done in a successful democracy,” wrote Wilson, an appointee of Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly, a strong abortion rights supporter.

Neither law struck down by the court had been enforced because of the lawsuits against them by abortion providers.

Other lawsuits in lower state courts are challenging restrictions on medication abortions, a ban on doctors using teleconferences to meet with patients, rules for what doctors must tell patients before an abortion and a requirement that patients wait 24 hours after receiving information about a procedure to terminate their pregnancies.

Friday’s rulings will be felt far outside Kansas since it has attracted thousands of patients from states where abortion is all but banned, most notably Oklahoma and Texas. The Guttmacher Institute, which supports abortion rights, projected last month that about 20,000 abortions were performed in Kansas in 2023 or 152% more than in 2020.

Abortion opponents argued ahead of the August 2022 vote that failing to change the state constitution would doom long-standing restrictions enacted under past Republican governors. Kansas saw a flurry of new restrictions under GOP Gov. Sam Brownback from 2011 through 2018.

“It hurts to say, ‘we told you so,’ to the many Kansans who were misled by the abortion industry’s assurances that it would still be ‘heavily regulated’ in our state if voters rejected the 2022 amendment,” Danielle Underwood, a spokesperson for Kansans for Life, the state’s most influential anti-abortion group, said in a statement.

Justice K.J. Wall, a Kelly …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Entertainment

      

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