Rally to Protect Abortion Rights (Alyssa Schukar/Center for Reproductive Rights)
The Kansas state constitution’s protection of abortion rights was reaffirmed last week when a state court permanently blocked a ban on a standard method of abortion. The ruling came in a case brought by the Center for Reproductive Rights on behalf of a Kansas OB/GYN and her medical practice.
The April 7 ruling, in Hodes & Nauser MDs, P.A., et al. v. Schmidt & Howe, struck down a Kansas law that banned an abortion method, known as D&E, that is the standard procedure after approximately 14-15 weeks of pregnancy. Such bans are opposed by major medical associations.
In its decision, the court adhered to precedent from a 2019 landmark ruling by the Kansas Supreme Court in the same Center case that for the first time recognized the fundamental right to abortion under the state constitution. In that ruling, the Kansas Supreme Court upheld a preliminary injunction granted by the state trial court and stated the “right to personal autonomy is firmly embedded” within the state constitution’s “natural rights guarantee and its included concepts of liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
The court’s ruling last week granted permanent relief, enjoining the ban on D&E in a final decision on the merits.
“The Kansas Supreme Court was loud and clear in 2019: abortion is protected as a fundamental right under the Kansas state constitution,” said Nancy Northup, President and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights. “This decision reaffirms that ruling and ensures that Kansans have access to the best abortion care. This ban made it a crime for doctors to use their best medical judgment. This is not about medicine, it’s purely political.”
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), which strongly opposes bans on D&E (dilation and evacuation), notes, “These restrictions represent legislative interference at its worst: doctors will be forced, by ill-advised, unscientifically motivated policy, to provide lesser care to patients.” Courts have blocked similar bans in Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Texas.
Abortion Rights Under Threat as Kansas Lawmakers Push to Remove Protections
Despite the court rulings, abortion rights are under attack in Kansas. Just weeks ago, anti-abortion lawmakers voted to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot in 2022 that, if passed, would explicitly state there is no constitutionally protected right to abortion in Kansas.
Kansas already has numerous barriers to accessing abortion, including state-mandated biased counseling, a 24-hour delay in care, restrictions on when private and public health insurance can cover abortion, a parental consent law, a reason-based ban, and more. The Center is currently challenging a ban on the use of telemedicine to provide medication abortion and a set of statutes and regulations that single out abortion care for unnecessary and onerous regulation. For more information on Kansas’s abortion laws and policies, see the Center’s “What if Roe fell” abortion laws map here.
- Kansas Ban on Standard Abortion Method Struck Down as Unconstitutional, 04/07/21
- Ruling by the Shawnee County, Kansas, District Court, 04/07/21
- Case background: Hodes & Nauser MDs, P.A., et al. v. Schmidt & Howe
- Kansas Supreme Court Says State Constitution Protects Abortion, 05/02/19
Landmark Cases—Center cases that have shaped legal precedent