Kansas Supreme Court Rejects Republican-Backed Abortion Regulations - The World News

Kansas Supreme Court Rejects Republican-Backed Abortion Regulations

The Kansas Supreme Court reaffirmed abortion protections in the state’s Constitution on Friday, striking down Republican-backed laws that banned a common second-trimester abortion procedure and created additional licensing requirements for abortion clinics.

“The state devoted much of its brief to inviting us to reverse our earlier ruling in this case that the Kansas Constitution protects a right to abortion,” Justice Eric Rosen wrote in one of the majority opinions. “We decline the invitation.” Justice Rosen, like five of the court’s seven members, was appointed by a Democratic governor.

The rulings were the latest setbacks for abortion opponents in Kansas, a conservative state that has been the setting for some of the country’s most important and divisive abortion debates. Most recently, in a closely watched vote in 2022, just after the fall of Roe v. Wade, Kansans rejected an attempt to remove abortion protections from the State Constitution.

The decisions on Friday permanently blocked enforcement of a 2015 law that banned dilation and evacuation, the most common form of late-term abortion, and permanently blocked laws that created special licensing requirements for abortion clinics. Each of the rulings was 5 to 1. The majority included four justices appointed by Democrats and one justice appointed by a Republican. One Republican appointee dissented, and one Democratic appointee did not participate.

In a statement, Danielle Underwood, a spokeswoman for Kansans for Life, said, “Extremely liberal judges of the Kansas Supreme Court have now overturned basic health and safety standards for abortion facilities.”

Supporters of abortion rights celebrated the decisions.

“This is 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,” said Nancy Northup, the president and chief executive of the Center for Reproductive Rights, in a statement.

Though Republicans dominate the Kansas Legislature and routinely carry the state in presidential elections, the state’s politics are nuanced.

Voters have for decades alternated between electing Republican and Democratic governors, and Gov. Laura Kelly, a Democrat in her second term, supports abortion rights. Republicans win by overwhelming margins in many rural areas, but the state’s most populous county, Johnson County in suburban Kansas City, has moved rapidly toward the Democrats over the last decade.

A spokesman for Ms. Kelly did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Attorney General Kris W. Kobach, a Republican whose office defended the laws in court, said in a statement that “the decision is as disappointing as it is unsurprising” and criticized the justices for finding that the State Constitution included a right to abortion.

Since the fall of Roe in 2022, Kansas has increasingly become a destination for women from other states seeking abortions. Two bordering states, Missouri and Oklahoma, ban abortion in nearly all cases, and a third, Nebraska, has passed new limits.

Estimates compiled by the Guttmacher Institute, a research organization that supports abortion rights, showed a 206 percent increase in abortions in Kansas between 2019 and 2023, the third-highest increase of any state. Of the more than 20,000 women who had an abortion in Kansas in 2023, the estimates showed, 69 percent came from another state.

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