The Kansas Supreme Court typically issues rulings within a year of hearing oral arguments, but court watchers have been waiting for more than a year for a ruling in a controversial abortion case.
In Hodes & Nauser v. Schmidt, attorneys for abortionists Herbert Hodes and Traci Nauser argue that a 2015 law banning dismemberment abortion is unconstitutional. A district court ruled in their favor, finding a right to abortion in the Kansas Constitution. An evenly divided appellate court upheld the ruling. All eyes have been on the state’s highest court since March 2017, when Supreme Court Justices heard oral arguments in the case.
A ruling could come at the end of the week. The Court issues its opinions on Fridays, and one is long overdue based on the Court’s internal goals.
“There are no time standards set by statute,” Lisa Taylor, a spokesperson for the Kansas Supreme Court told the Sentinel in January. “There are self-imposed standards the Court has posed as a goal to meet.”
The internal standards seek to have 25 percent of all opinions issued within 90 days of oral arguments, 50 percent released within 180 days, and 95 percent within 270 days. The Court heard oral arguments in the abortion case more than a year ago.
In the 5 percent of cases where rulings are issued more than 270 days after the hearing, timelines fluctuate due to the complexity of those cases, Taylor explained.
“Generally speaking, the Court is on track,” she said.
Kansas is one of a handful of states facing lawsuits over dismemberment abortion bans, but the court cases in other states like Alabama, Arkansas, and Texas, were filed in federal court.
According to a blog post by the Center for Reproductive Rights, a pro-abortion organization, attempting to find a right to abort in state constitutions is a political strategy.
“Although claims that state constitutions should provide greater protection than the federal constitution are not always successful, this strategy remains an important tool,” one post reads.
Pro-life advocates are ready with a strategy of their own should the Kansas Supreme Court find such a right in the Kansas Constitution.
“There’s only one thing we can do if the Kansas Supreme Court ruling is as bad as we expect, and the continued existence of all our pro-life laws is at stake: Amend the Constitution to make it crystal clear it does not contain an unfettered right to abortion, right when the U.S. Supreme Court is going the opposite way,” said Mary Kay Culp, executive director of Kansans for Life.
When the Kansas legislature meets again in late April, she says lawmakers will introduce a resolution that, if passed by two-thirds of the Kansas Senate and House, would put a constitutional amendment on the public ballot. If passed by a majority, Culp said, it would “clarify that there is no so-called ‘right to abortion’ in the 1859 Kansas Constitution, which abortion extremists hoped to use to ruin the still limited, but important power to regulate abortion that has been handed back to state legislatures in the 45 years since Roe v. Wade.”