Kansas Supreme Court Says State Constitution Protects Abortion

Kansas Supreme Court Says State Constitution Protects Abortion

Today, the Kansas Supreme Court issued a landmark ruling, affirming that the state’s constitution protects Kansas women’s right to safe and legal abortion. 

The ruling stems from a 2015 case brought by the Center for Reproductive Rights on behalf of Herbert C. Hodes, M.D. and Traci Lynn Nauser, M.D., a father-daughter team of Kansas physicians. The case challenges a law that aims to ban the standard of care for ending a pregnancy after about 15 weeks; today’s decision also continues to block this law.

“Today’s decision from the Kansas Supreme Court is truly historic,” says the Center’s Senior Director of U.S. Litigation Julie Rikelman. “It recognizes that, under the Kansas constitution, all people have the right to make their own decisions about their bodies, their health, how they form their families, and their family life.”

Center for Reproductive Rights President and CEO Nancy Northup says, “This decision makes clear that attempts to undermine the right to abortion by banning safe and accepted methods of abortion cannot stand. Kansas joins nine other states whose highest courts have affirmed at the state level what the U.S. Supreme Court has upheld for more than four decades: that every woman has a right to make her own decisions about her health and family free from political interference.”

The court ruled 6-1 that 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 opinion also roundly rejects the notion "that upon becoming pregnant, women relinquish virtually all rights of personal sovereignty.”

This ruling affirms that abortion will remain legal in Kansas even if Roe v. Wade is overturned. Genevieve Scott, Senior Staff Attorney at the Center, said “This ruling will make Kansas a haven state in the Midwest if federal law protecting abortion is overturned or significantly limited or undercut. With this ruling recognizing the right to abortion as fundamental, Kansas state legislators will be less likely to keep passing further restrictions to abortion access going forward.” The court’s entire opinion reads as a powerful statement: no more.

The decision clearly articulates that autonomy “encompasses our ability to control our own bodies, to assert bodily integrity, and to exercise self-determination. It allows each of us to make decisions about medical treatment and family formation, including whether to bear or beget a child. For women, these decisions can include whether to continue a pregnancy.”

And also: “The inalienable natural right of personal autonomy is the heart of human dignity.” 

 

Case Attorneys: Janet Crepps, of Center for Reproductive Rights, of New York, New York, argued the cause, and Genevieve Scott and Zoe Levine, of the same office, Erin Thompson, of Foland, Wickens, Eisfelder, Roper and Hofer, P.C., of Kansas City, Missouri, Lee Thompson, of Thompson Law Firm, LLC, of Wichita, Robert V. Eye, of Robert V. Eye Law Office, LLC, of Lawrence, and Teresa A. Woody, of The Woody Law Firm PC, of Kansas City, Missouri, were with her on the briefs for appellee.