In wake of 2019 ruling, Shawnee County judge strikes down controversial Kansas abortion law
A Shawnee County judge struck down Wednesday a 2015 law restricting some types of abortion as "unconstitutional and unenforceable," citing a controversial Kansas Supreme Court ruling upholding abortion rights in the state.
The state has been unable to enforce a law limiting dilation and evacuation procedures — a common option for second-trimester abortions — since 2019.
That's when the state's highest court found Kansans have a fundamental right to an abortion under the state constitution, a landmark ruling that anti-abortion advocates have aimed to undo ever since.
Restricting dilation and evacuation abortions would fall short of the standard set forth by the Kansas Supreme Court, Judge Teresa Watson wrote in her ruling.
Pregnant women would have to choose only riskier, "less reliable" procedures under the 2015 law, she argued.
"Defendants offer no facts and little argument about how these alternatives for bringing death promote greater respect for the value and dignity of human life as a substitute for D&E; instead, they offer only a theory," Watson wrote in her ruling.
Kansas was one of the first states in the country to pass a ban on the practice, which opponents have called "dismemberment abortion."
Nancy Northrup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, cheered the ruling in a statement, saying it will protect health care for Kansans.
"This ban made it a crime for doctors to use their best medical judgment. This is not about medicine, it’s purely political,” Northrup said.
The case prompted an uproar among conservatives and jumpstarted a push to amend the state constitution to explicitly state that there is no constitutional right to an abortion in Kansas.
That amendment passed the state Legislature earlier this year. Voters will decide its fate in the August 2022 primary election.
Jeanne Gawdun, director of government relations for Kansans for Life, argued public sentiment would be on their side when that time comes, pointing to popular support for the 2015 law.
"We really feel it does underscore the need for Value Them Both to be passed," Gawdun said.