The Kansas Supreme Court Just Upheld the Right to Abortion

“This right allows a woman to make her own decisions regarding her body, health, family formation and family life.”

Pro-life activists try to block the sign of a pro-choice activist during the 2018 March for Life January 19, 2018 in Washington, DC.

Pro-life activists try to block the sign of a pro-choice activist during the 2018 March for Life January 19, 2018 in Washington, DC.Alex Wong/Getty Images

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The Kansas Supreme Court on Friday ruled that the right to an abortion is protected under the state’s constitution. The decision blocks a 2015 Kansas law that banned a common second-trimester abortion procedure and safeguards a woman’s right to choose even in the event that Roe v. Wade is reversed by the US Supreme Court. 

In their landmark decision, the seven judges—one of whom dissented—said that the Kansas Constitution’s Bill of Rights protects the “right of personal autonomy,” meaning state law must preserve the right “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 decision is significant for a number of reasons. In the mid-1990s, the state capitol became the epicenter of mass anti-abortion protests involving thousands of right-wing activists over several weeks. (Dr. George Tiller, one of country’s few third-trimester abortion providers, was assassinated by an anti-abortion extremist in Wichita in 2009.) And in 2015, Kansas became the first state to pass a ban on dilation and evacuation abortion procedures.

Since then, 9 other states have banned D&E—the most common type of second-trimester abortion procedure. This year, legislatures in Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi and Ohio have also approved bills banning abortion procedures after six weeks—before many women know they are pregnant. In Louisiana, an amendment to change the state constitution to say there is no right to an abortion passed the House of Representatives on Tuesday.

On Friday, abortion rights campaigners celebrated the court’s ruling. The Center for Reproductive Rights first challenged Kansas’ second-trimester abortion ban four years ago. Today, the organization’s president, Nancy Northup, said the ruling “unequivocally affirmed that the state constitution guarantees women the right to safe and legal abortion. As this decision makes clear, attempts to undermine that fundamental right by banning safe and accepted methods of abortion cannot stand.” 

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