The Kansas Supreme Court may soon issue a ruling on whether the 1859 Kansas Constitution allows lawmakers to ban any late-term abortions, including partial-birth abortions or live dismemberment abortions, or even regulate the prescription requirements for RU486 abortions.
A pair of physicians sued over a 2015 law that prohibits Kansas doctors from using dilation and evacuation abortions, also known as live dismemberment abortions. The procedure requires the abortionist to tear the unborn baby apart inside the uterus before removing the infant, in pieces, through the cervix.
The Kansas dismemberment abortion ban has yet to be enforced. It went before a lower court judge, who placed an injunction on the ban before the law was implemented. When the ban is in place, abortions will still be legal except for procedures specifically banned by the Kansas Legislature.
The Kansas Supreme Court heard oral arguments on the law in March, and justices seemed open to deciding that the Kansas Constitution, adopted in 1859, contains a right to abortion so broad that state representatives cannot regulate it.
Arguing on behalf of the physicians, attorney Janet Crepps told the Court abortion should be considered a fundamental right, and that the Court’s ruling should allow all abortions at any stage of pregnancy and done for any reason.
Kansas is one of a handful of states facing lawsuits over dismemberment abortion bans. The other cases in Alabama, Arkansas, and Texas, however, were filed in federal court.
A blog post by the Center for Reproductive Rights, a pro-abortion organization, says the abortion lawsuits in state courts are part of 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,” the post reads.
The CEO of one of Kansas’ largest abortion facilities, Trust Women South Wind Clinic in Wichita, agreed.
“With the federal climate toward reproductive rights becoming increasingly hostile, it’s more important than ever for states to recognize that women have bodily integrity and that they must be afforded those inalienable rights under the constitution,” Julie Burkhart, Trust Women CEO, said.
Four of the seven members of the Kansas Supreme Court were appointed by former Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, an abortion supporter, but pro-life groups are hoping for the best and preparing for the worst.
“There is a coalition of pro-life groups that have been game planning for all the various outcomes in this case,” Eric Teetsel, President of the Family Policy Alliance of Kansas, said.
That could be anything from a celebration, if the Court rules that the 1859 Kansas Constitution doesn’t contain a right to abortion after all, to a legislative fix if the Court rules on some kind of technicality, to efforts to advocate for a Constitutional amendment if the Court determines the state’s 160-year-old constitution contains a right to abortion broader than Roe vs. Wade.
Mary Kay Culp, state executive director of Kansans for Life said, “If the Kansas Supreme Court’s decision is as bad as we fear, and bans all pro-life laws in Kansas–even those banning partial-birth and live dismemberment abortions–we will throw everything we have behind amending our constitution so clearly that even the most liberal judge or Supreme Court justice would dare not try to do what this court is expected to do: misinterpret our constitution’s 1859-stated, right to life into exactly the opposite.”