Kansas Supreme Court Permanently Bars Second-Trimester Abortion Ban

Kansas Supreme Court Permanently Bars Second-Trimester Abortion Ban - Adobe Stock Images by jzehnder Photo Source: Adobe Stock Images by jzehnder

On Friday, Kansas' highest court permanently barred the state from enforcing a law that banned the most common second-trimester abortion procedure. The Kansas Supreme Court ruled that the ban violated the state constitution’s right to abortion, which the court had recognized in a 2019 decision.

The 5-1 ruling by the Kansas Supreme Court leaves in place a lower court's order blocking the law, which prohibited a procedure known as dilation and extraction except in narrow cases of medical emergencies. One of the seven justices did not participate in the decision.

The law, passed in 2015, was immediately challenged by a group of abortion providers who argued that the state constitution guaranteed a right to abortion. The Kansas Supreme Court’s 2019 ruling supported this view, stating that the Kansas Constitution Bill of Rights protects a fundamental right to personal autonomy, which includes a pregnant person’s right to terminate a pregnancy. However, the court remanded the case to the lower court for further litigation.

After the lower court issued a final ruling in favor of the abortion providers, the state appealed again to the Supreme Court. In his opinion for the majority on Friday, Justice Eric Rosen reiterated the court's earlier stance, affirming that the state constitution guarantees a right to abortion.

"We stand by our conclusion that ... the Kansas Constitution Bill of Rights protects a fundamental right to personal autonomy, which includes a pregnant person's right to terminate a pregnancy," Rosen wrote.

Justice Caleb Stegall, the sole dissenter, argued that the Constitution’s plain text and original meaning did not include a right to abortion. Stegall, a conservative judge, had also dissented from the court’s 2019 ruling.

Nancy Northup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights, which represented the plaintiffs, celebrated the ruling as "an immense victory for the health, safety, and dignity of people in Kansas and the entire Midwestern region, where millions have been cut off from abortion access."

Kansas Attorney General Kris Kobach, a Republican whose office defended the law, expressed disappointment. "The decision is as disappointing as it is unsurprising," Kobach said in a statement. "When the word liberty was included in the constitution, no one thought they were creating a right to an abortion."

Abortion remains legal in Kansas up to 22 weeks. In August 2022, Kansas voters rejected a measure that sought to remove abortion rights from the state constitution. This vote came in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, a ruling that had established a nationwide right to abortion and led many Republican-led states to ban or severely restrict the procedure.

Amanda Tjan
Amanda Tjan
Amanda is a freelance journalist interested in current events regarding policy and healthcare. She earned her bachelor's degree in social welfare from the University of California, Berkeley. She is currently attending medical school at Western University of Health Sciences and aspires to improve the lives of others through science and human connection.
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