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Kansas Court of Appeals: State Constitution Protects Right to Safe, Legal Abortion

Court continues to block state law criminalizing doctors for providing safe abortion method in same ruling

(PRESS RELEASE) In a groundbreaking ruling, the Kansas Court of Appeals today acknowledged for the first time that Kansas women have a right to safe and legal abortion under the state constitution.  In the ruling issued today, the court blocked a Kansas law banning the most commonly used method of ending a pregnancy in the second trimester— a law that could force some women to either undergo additional, invasive, and medically unnecessary procedures, or to lose access to abortion services entirely. 

Today’s decision recognizes that “the Kansas Constitution Bill of Rights provide the same protection for abortion rights as the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution; the district court correctly determined that the Kansas Constitution Bill of Rights provides a right to abortion.”

Said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights:

“Today’s ruling is a landmark victory for Kansas women, whose rights and health have been under siege for far too long.”

“The state Court of Appeals has rightly affirmed that Kansas women have the right to safely and legally end a pregnancy under their state constitution, free from political interference.

“The Center for Reproductive Rights will continue to stand against these relentless attacks on constitutionally protected health care and fight against laws that jeopardize these fundamental rights.”   

The Center for Reproductive Rights challenged the Kansas measure in 2015 on behalf of Herbert C Hodes, M.D. and Traci Lynn Nauser, M.D.-- a father-daughter team of board certified ob-gyns with 40 years of combined experience in comprehensive women’s health care.  Their practice is one of only three providers of abortion in Kansas.   

The measure--which was blocked by a state court before it could take effect on July 1, 2015--represents an unprecedented attack on women’s health, personal autonomy, and the doctor-patient relationship, potentially forcing physicians to subject women seeking safe and legal abortion services in the second trimester to an additional invasive unnecessary procedure. Kansas Governor Brownback signed SB 95 in April 2015 over the objections of local and national medical experts, including over 20 area physicians.

The Kansas measure was the first of its kind, though one week after Governor Brownback signed SB 95Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin signed a similar restriction into law.  The Center is also challenging the Oklahoma measure, which was also blocked in state court.

Major medical groups oppose political interference and medically unnecessary procedures similar to what is found in SB 95.  In an amicus brief opposing the measure, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) stated that SB 95 “raises serious safety and health concerns for women as well as intrudes unnecessarily into the patient-physician relationship.”

Kansas women already face myriad obstacles when attempting to access basic reproductive health care services, including a 24 hour mandatory delay for women seeking safe and legal abortion and restrictions on insurance coverage for abortion services.  Rather than focusing on increasing the number of policies that are known to support women and children, politicians in Kansas have spent their time enacting abortion restrictions that do nothing to improve women’s health and safety.

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