Kansas Supreme Court Says State Constitution Protects the Right to Abortion

State’s highest court strikes down abortion ban in landmark ruling

(PRESS RELEASE) In a groundbreaking ruling, the Kansas Supreme Court today acknowledged for the first time that Kansas women have a right to safe and legal abortion under the state constitution. Today’s ruling also blocks a 2015 Kansas law banning the standard method of ending a pregnancy after about 15 weeks of pregnancy. The ruling comes nearly four years after the Center for Reproductive Rights challenged the measure in court on behalf of two ob-gyns in the state.

In its decision, the Court wrote that “Section 1 of the Kansas Constitution Bill of Rights affords protection of the right of personal autonomy, which includes the ability to control one's own body, to assert bodily integrity, and to exercise self-determination. This right allows a woman to make her own decisions regarding her body, health, family formation, and family life— decisions that can include whether to continue a pregnancy.”

The measure will remain blocked while the litigation continues.

“With today’s ruling Kansas’ highest court unequivocally affirmed that the state constitution guarantees women the right to safe and legal abortion,” said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights. “As this decision makes clear, attempts to undermine that fundamental right 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.”  

Kansas has the notorious distinction of being the first state to pass a ban of this kind. Eleven other states in addition to Kansas have passed similar bans. In states where similar bans have been challenged, the laws have not taken effect, including in Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Texas.

Major mainstream medical experts like the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists oppose these type of bans, noting “these restrictions represent legislative interference at its worst: doctors will be forced, by ill-advised, unscientifically motivated policy, to provide lesser care to patients. This is unacceptable.”

Kansas Governor Brownback signed SB 95 in April 2015 over the objections of local and national medical experts, including over 20 area physicians.  The Center for Reproductive Rights challenged the Kansas measure in June 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.  A state court blocked the measure from taking effect in June 2015. The Kansas Court of Appeals continued to block the measure in January 2016 and acknowledged in the same ruling that the Kansas state constitution includes a right to abortion. 

Genevieve Scott of the Center for Reproductive Rights filed this suit in 2015 along with local counsel Bob Eye, Teresa Woody and Erin Thompson. The case was filed on behalf of doctors Herbert Hodes and Traci Nauser of Overland Park. Their practice is one of only three abortion providers in Kansas.   

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