Kansas Gov. Jeff Colyer and all five members of the Republican congressional delegation present in Wichita at a Kansans for Life breakfast came out in support of an amendment to the state constitution on the subject of abortion. The only exception was Sen. Jerry Moran who missed the breakfast because of the flu.
Exactly how the amendment would read has not been finalized. It would be designed in response to a court challenge to a 2015 law signed by Gov. Sam Brownback called “the Kansas Unborn Child Protection from Dismemberment Abortion Act.” With limited exceptions, the act would ban dismembering a living unborn child with sharp cutting tools and removing that child one piece at a time from the mother. This is a specifically defined form of surgical dilation and extraction (D & E) abortion often performed after the first trimester, when the unborn child is too large and developed to be removed through a suction tube.
The suit was brought by Herbert Hodes and his daughter Traci Nauser, an Overland Park father-daughter abortion team. Both parties in the suit–Hodes and Nauser on one side and Attorney General Derek Schmidt and Johnson County D.A. Steve Howe on the other–agree that the resolution of the suit hinges on whether the Kansas Constitution recognizes a right to abortion. If not, the statute would go into effect.
At the center of the debate is the phrase from the Kansas Constitution: “All men are possessed of equal and inalienable natural rights, among which are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” The plaintiffs are contending that the “liberty” guaranteed in that clause endows a mother with the right to have her unborn baby dismembered. The defendants do not agree. A district court imposed an injunction on the statute soon after it was passed. That grant of a temporary injunction was affirmed by an equally divided appeals court. The constitutionality of the law has been left for the notoriously liberal Kansas Supreme Court to resolve.
Gov. Colyer, a doctor, was unsparing in his criticism of the appeals court decision. “There’s a Kansas court that has argued that the framers, framers of our Constitution, imagined abortion as a separate constitutional right,” said Gov. Jeff Colyer. “This is just violence against the most basic facts.”