Voters in Kansas decide whether state constitution protects abortion rights | news
In one of the first state-level tests of abortion laws after the fall of Roe v. Wade, Kansas voters will go to the polls Tuesday to decide whether their state constitution guarantees an abortion right.
The voting measure is a constitutional amendment aimed at overturning a recent decision by the Kansas Supreme Court that ruled in 2019 that abortion rights are constitutionally protected in the state. State law currently prohibits most abortions until the 22nd week of pregnancy when permitted only to save a patient’s life or to prevent “significant and irreversible physical impairment of an important bodily function.”
A “yes” to the measure would confirm that there is no such constitutionally protected right and it would return the issue of abortion regulation to the legislature. It could essentially allow lawmakers to push through a total abortion ban in the state after the US Supreme Court ruled in June in Roe v. Wade to overturn the 1973 case establishing a constitutional right to abortion.
A “no” to the measure would uphold the constitutionally protected right to an abortion and could prevent lawmakers from regulating the process.
The roots of Tuesday’s ballot measure date back to 2015, when the state legislature passed a ban on dilation and evacuation abortions. Two doctors who performed dilation and evacuation procedures filed a lawsuit, arguing the bill violates a patient’s right to an abortion because it prevents doctors from using the safest procedure for most second-trimester abortions, according to the Kansas Judicial Branch. The Kansas Attorney General argued that the Kansas Constitution does not provide for an abortion right.
The country’s highest court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs in 2019. It concluded that Section 1 of the Kansas Constitution Bill of Rights, which states that “(all) men possess equal and inalienable natural rights, including life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” protects a woman’s right, self to decide whether to continue a pregnancy, according to a statement by the Kansas Judicial Branch at the time.
“The Court looked at the historical record of the people’s ratification of Section 1 and concluded that the drafters and ratifiers of Section 1 should protect the right of every person to personal autonomy – and that right enables a woman to Making decisions about her body, health, family education and family life, including deciding whether to continue a pregnancy,” the Kansas Judicial Branch said in a press release at the time.
In response, the Republican-led Kansas Legislature voted in 2021 to put Tuesday’s constitutional amendment to a vote.
“Kansans don’t want an unregulated abortion industry,” said Sen. Molly Baumgardner, a Kansas City-area Republican who, according to the Associated Press, was leading other anti-abortion lawmakers in the debate at the time of the January 2021 vote.
Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly said at the time that passing the constitutional amendment would result in a boycott of Kansas and discourage businesses from moving to the state, the AP reported. She also previously said the proposal would take the state “back to the Dark Ages.”
A simple majority of voters is required to pass the measure.
Abortion-related policies are also on the ballot this year in California, Vermont, Kentucky and Montana.