Kansas top court strikes down pro-life protections against dismemberment abortions

shutterstock 54065875 Kansas State Capitol building in Topeka. | Credit: Shutterstock

The Kansas Supreme Court struck down two abortion-related laws on Friday: one that banned dilation and evacuation abortions and another detailing safety regulations for abortion clinics.

The court overturned a 2015 ban of dilation and evacuation, or “D&E,” abortion, a procedure that is banned in more than 30 states. Also known as dismemberment abortions, this procedure is typically done in the second trimester of pregnancy and results in the dismemberment of an unborn child and the crushing of his or her skull.

The court also struck down a 2011 law that detailed safety regulations and licensing requirements for facilities that provided second- or third-trimester abortions, or more than four first-trimester abortions in a month. The Kansas Supreme Court found that this infringed on a women’s right to bodily autonomy. 

The rulings were made 5-1 with one judge abstaining. The two laws had already been temporarily paused due to the lawsuits.

In 2019, the Kansas Supreme Court concluded that the Kansas Constitution grants a “natural right of personal autonomy, which includes the right to control one’s own body,” the judges wrote in the decision, noting that this can include “whether to continue a pregnancy.”

The judges further noted that “the state is prohibited from restricting that right unless it can show it is doing so to further a compelling government interest.”

“A graphic description of the D&E procedure referred to in S.B. 95 is not necessary to resolving the legal issues before us,” the judges noted in their decision.

Dissenting Justice Caleb Stegall criticized the decision, saying that “it fundamentally alters the structure of our government to magnify the power of the state” and “paints the interest in unborn life championed by millions of Kansans as rooted in an ugly prejudice.”

The case was sent to a district court that found there were no “reasonable” alternatives to dismemberment abortion, and the state Supreme Court upheld that decision. 

“Adding insult to injury, extremely liberal judges of the Kansas Supreme Court have now overturned basic health and safety standards for abortion facilities when one of the state’s largest abortion franchises recently operated for an unknown period of time with no medical oversight,” Danielle Underwood, Kansans for Life director of communications, said in a July 5 statement

“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,” she added.

Kansas currently allows abortions until the 22nd week of pregnancy and requires minors to have written consent to have abortions. The state also has ongoing lawsuits in lower courts that are challenging restrictions on medication abortions.

Kansas is an abortion destination for states that protect unborn lives, such as Oklahoma and Texas. Abortions in Kansas in 2023 increased by 152% since 2020, according to the Guttmacher Institute.

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