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     By Elisha Brown

Anthony Powell, right, solicitor general for the Kansas Attorney General’s office, asked the Kansas Supreme Court to reverse itself on a 2019 decision affirming the fundamental right to abortion was embedded in the Kansas Constitution’s bill of rights. (Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)

Anthony Powell, right, solicitor general for the Kansas Attorney General’s office, asked the Kansas Supreme Court to reverse itself on a 2019 decision affirming the fundamental right to abortion was embedded in the Kansas Constitution’s bill of rights. 
(Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)

In August, Kansas voters soundly rejected an anti-abortion constitutional amendment by a 59% to 41% margin, according to the Secretary of State election results. The amendment proposed by the Republican-controlled Legislature was a victory for reproductive rights as Kansans endorsed keeping abortion protections in the state constitution. 

“We will not hand over our constitutional rights and our bodily autonomy to the government, and we will take care of each other and look out for each other because that is what Kansas is all about,” Rachel Sweet, the former campaign manager for Kansans for Constitutional Freedom, a group that encouraged voters to vote “no” on the measure, told Kansas Reflector after the win. 

But abortion access is back in the spotlight, the Reflector reported: “Justices of the Kansas Supreme Court grilled the state solicitor general Monday about an appeal asking the state’s highest court to reverse its 2019 opinion finding the right to abortion was embedded in the Kansas Constitution and then pivot to affirm a state law banning an abortion procedure.”

Meanwhile, Republican lawmakers are continuing their push to restrict anti-abortion legislation in the state despite voters’ record turnout and the message they sent in defeating the proposed amendment. In the Kansas Reflector podcast, reproductive rights advocates argue legislators' bills do not reflect the will of Kansas residents.

THE BEAT States Newsroom coverage

Kansas high court hears abortion rights challenges

Anthony Powell, the state solicitor general hired by anti-abortion rights Attorney General Kris Kobach, asked Kansas Supreme Court justices to reconsider abortion as a state constitutional right and allow a ban on the dilation-and-evacuation procedure, a common type of surgical abortion, Kansas Reflector reported Monday. The six justices – K.J. Wall recused himself – appeared skeptical of the state’s argument. Powell argued that the court took the word liberty out of context and applied it broadly as applying to personal autonomy. 

Alice Wang, a Center for Reproductive Rights attorney, said there was no justification for the high court to revisit its 2019 decision that embedded the right to an abortion in the state constitution. (In another abortion rights case, a  lawyer for CRR asked the high court to strike down laws that target regulation of abortion clinics.) Justice Melissa Taylor Standridge, appointed by Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly, said the state lacked sufficient evidence to characterize the surgical abortion procedure as heinous, and Justice Eric Rosen, an appointee of Democratic former Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, said a ban on the method would place a mother’s life at a greater risk

“The question here involves such a big one — we’re talking about interpretation of our state Constitution, really a case of first impression that involves a very important issue of abortion rights,” said Powell, who argued the U.S. Supreme Court’s reversal of Roe qualifies as a reason to revisit the state’s 2019 abortion ruling.


Anti-abortion bills ignore will of Kansans, advocates say

A majority of Kansans soundly defeated an anti-abortion constitutional amendment in August, but the Republican lawmakers have ignored the result of that direct ballot initiative this session, Kansas Reflector explored in a recent podcast episode. Instead, lawmakers have pushed a flurry of anti-abortion bills that aim to fund anti-abortion centers, ban telehealth abortions and promote a debunked abortion reversal process, among other proposals. 

“To now come back and say that folks didn’t know what they were voting on and that’s why they are justifying all these new bills to restrict the right to abortion in the state of Kansas, I just think that that is a little bit disingenuous,”  said Chloe Chaffin, program lead for Loud Light and the chapter president of Washburn Unite for Reproductive and Gender Equity. “It just hurts my heart as a Kansan, frankly.”


Texas abortion funds active again

We placed this news in The Pulse Monday but it’s worth revisiting: Texas abortion funds have started raising money again after a court ruling last month, Texas Tribune reported Friday.

In February, a federal judge granted a temporary injunction that blocked county prosecutors from criminally charging people who help people get abortions outside the state. The ruling does not apply statewide but still gave abortion funds some leeway, according to The Tribune.  

After Roe fell, abortion funds stopped paying for out-of-state abortions and travel expenses for fear of breaking several of the state’s anti-abortion laws. Lilith Fund, Fund Texas Choice and Texas Equal Access Fund have reopened their hotlines for abortion seekers and resumed accepting donations. Anti-abortion rights advocates have continuously threatened to sue the funds for helping Texas get out-of-state abortions.


THE PULL Commentary from South Dakota

“With abortion no longer an option in South Dakota under most circumstances, anti-abortion activists have a responsibility to be truly pro-life rather than just pro-birth.” – Dana Hess, columnist, South Dakota Searchlight 


THE PULSE Reproductive rights news across the country

  • A group of 22 Democratic lieutenant governors joined the multi-state reproductive rights coalition. (Pennsylvania Capital-Star.) 
  • Medicaid expansion in North Carolina will likely cover child care workers at private centers. (NC Policy Watch.) 
  • Senate Democrats sent a letter to the Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin Monday urging the military to protect the Pentagon’s new reproductive health policies, which faced criticism from Republicans. (NBC News.) 
  • Florida’s health care agency fined 14 abortion clinics nearly $500,000 total for violating a previously dormant 24-hour waiting period law that targets providers. (Politico.) 
  • Private plane pilots are helping fly people to states that allow abortions and gender-affirming health care. (NPR.) 

STATE BY STATE Abortion access in the U.S.


Track state-level developments on reproductive rights anytime at News From The States. Send tips and thoughts to ebrown@statesnewsroom.com, and follow her on Twitter @elishacbrown.

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