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Kansas Court Delivers Big Victory for Abortion Rights

Justices say state constitution protects those rights
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Apr 26, 2019 3:49 PM CDT
Marchers at the Kansas Capitol in January protest the anticipated abortion ruling.   (Thad Allton/Topeka Capital-Journal via AP)

(Newser) – Kansas' highest court ruled for the first time Friday that the state constitution protects abortion rights and blocked a first-in-the-nation ban on a common second trimester method for ending pregnancies. The state Supreme Court's ruling represented a big victory for abortion rights supporters in a state with a Republican-controlled Legislature hostile to their cause, per the AP. It comes with other, GOP-controlled states moving to ban most abortions in direct challenges to the US Supreme Court's 1973 Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortions across the nation. The Kansas decision prevents the state from enforcing a 2015 law that could have greatly limited second trimester abortions. But even worse for abortion opponents, the ruling clears the way for legal challenges to a string of abortion restrictions approved in recent years by state lawmakers.

The court said vague language protecting "equal and inalienable rights" in the first section of the Kansas Constitution's Bill of Rights grants a "natural right of personal autonomy" that includes the right to "control one's own body." Because that right is independent of the US Constitution, Kansas courts could strike down restrictions that have been upheld by the federal courts. "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 court's unsigned majority opinion said. The ruling immediately prompted abortion opponents to call for amending the state constitution. Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly, who took office in January, is a strong abortion-rights supporter, but the Legislature still has solid anti-abortion majorities.

(Read more anti-abortion laws stories.)

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