Kansas Supreme Court Upholds A Woman's Right To Choose

by Valerie Williams
PunkToad via Flickr

Kansas makes a woman’s right to have an abortion their state’s law

Today, Kansas’ Supreme Court ruled that its own Constitution protects a woman’s right to an abortion. The landmark ruling is now state law with no path for appeal.

According to NPR, because the ruling is based on the state’s Constitution, even the possible future overturning of Roe v. Wade, the case that established an American woman’s right to an abortion, won’t be able to change the state’s laws. The ruling comes as a number of states are attempting to (and sometimes succeeding, in the case of Ohio) enact “heartbeat bills” that stop a woman from obtaining an abortion if the fetal heartbeat can be detected. That means preventing women from having abortions as early as six weeks, a point where many women don’t even realize yet that they’re pregnant.

Of course, this means conservative Kansas lawmakers are already seeking to change the state’s Constitution to add an abortion ban. If that sentence doesn’t make you physically sick, you’re not paying attention.

Lawmakers head back to that state’s capitol of Topeka next week, but in the meantime, let’s note that out of seven justices, only one dissented in this decision. In Kansas. That’s a pretty powerful statement for how most people feel about preserving a woman’s right to a safe abortion. In their decision, the justices used the first sentence in the Kansas Constitution’s Bill of Rights. “All men are possessed of equal and inalienable natural rights, among which are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

Using that precedent, the justices came to their conclusion. “We are now asked: ‘Is this declaration of rights more than an idealized aspiration? And, if so, do the substantive rights include a woman’s right to make decisions about her body, including the decision whether to continue her pregnancy? We answer these questions, ‘Yes.'” The decision affirms that “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.”

Hell. Yes.

“The State may only infringe upon the right to decide whether to continue a pregnancy,” the ruling reads, “if the State has a compelling interest and has narrowly tailored its actions to that interest.”

The ruling comes after a 2015 challenge to a ban passed on D&E (dilation and evacuation) procedures by the state’s legislature by a pair of Overland Park physicians, Herbert Hodes and his daughter, Traci Nauser. The ruling also places a temporary injunction on the law banning this procedure.

Democratic Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly was pleased with the state’s decision. “While federal law has long guaranteed every woman the right to make their own medical decisions in consultation with their healthcare providers, I’m pleased that the Kansas Supreme Court’s decision now conclusively respects and recognizes that right under Kansas law as well,” Kelly said in a statement.

While it’s terrifying to see this is a conversation states are still having nearly five decades after Roe v Wade, it’s encouraging to see some states standing up for the rights of women to make choices for their families — and their bodies.