The Kansas Supreme Court on Friday bolstered the campaign to protect and expand abortion rights at the state level, ruling the Kansas Constitution leaves the decision to terminate a pregnancy with the mother.
The decision is an encouraging one for abortion-rights groups, many of which have turned their focus
from national politics to the states over the last few years, fearful that a conservative-leaning Supreme Court could one day overturn Roe v. Wade
The Kansas Supreme Court decision ensures that abortion would remain legal in Kansas if the Supreme Court overturned the 1973 case that vitiated many state and federal restrictions on abortion.
In 2015, the Kansas legislature passed, and the governor signed, Senate Bill 95
, which prohibited doctors from performing dilation and evacuation (known as D&E), the conventional method of abortion during the second trimester.
A trial court issued an injunction against the law at the behest of a group of Kansas doctors, who argued dilation and evacuation was the safest method of abortion during the second trimester. The Kansas Attorney General and District Attorney General for Johnson Country countered that the doctors’ complaint was moot, since there was no right to an abortion under the Kansas Constitution.
In handing down its decision, the Kansas Supreme Court found that the right to personal autonomy, protected by the Kansas Constitution Bill of Rights, includes the right to end a pregnancy.
“Although not absolute, this right is fundamental,” the Court wrote
. “Accordingly, the State is prohibited from restricting this right unless it is doing so to further a compelling government interest and in a way that is narrowly tailored to that interest.”
to the Guttmacher Institute, a sexual and reproductive health research organization, states have enacted 21 abortion restrictions in 2019, including bans on abortion after 18 weeks and "trigger” bans that would immediately prohibit abortion if Roe v. Wade
Pro-choice advocates have argued that abortion restrictions don’t reduce
abortions, but some research indicates that might not always be true. A recent study
by the National Bureau of Economic Research found that parental involvement laws enacted before the mid-1990s reduced abortion rates among minors by 15% to 20%.