In April 2015, the Kansas State Legislature passed the Kansas Unborn Child Protection from Dismemberment Abortion Act. This law, with few exceptions, would ban “dilation and evacuation” abortions, or “D&E” abortions. These abortions are the primary method for second-trimester abortions in the United States. These abortions are common and considered the safest option for a second-trimester abortion. Kansas became the first state to ban this procedure.
Weeks before the law was to take effect last summer, three doctors filed a lawsuit over the bill. The key issue was whether the Kansas Constitution provides a right to abortion. In January 2016, an evenly divided Court of Appeals blocked this law, stating that the rights of due process and equal protection protect the procedure. The court, citing Roe v. Wade, further stated that the United States Constitution has protected the right to an abortion for over 40 years. The court affirmed the lower court’s injunction. The case is now going to be reviewed by the Kansas Supreme Court.
The appellate court’s opinion offers both sides of the issue. It states that the “rights of Kansas women are not limited to those specifically intended by the men who drafter our state’s constitution in 1859.” The other side states, “there is nothing within the text or history…the Kansas Constitution Bill of Rights to lead this court to conclude that these provisions were intended to guarantee a right to abortion.”
Opponents of the bill point to the fact that medical science supports this procedure as the safest option, and that to override science is “astonishing.” Furthermore, if this law were to move forward, there would be no alternative for women who seek this procedure.
Supporters of the bill focus on the graphic nature of its title. They argue that proponents of the procedure purposely use terminology that the public can’t understand. In explaining this, they analogize it to a doctor who wouldn’t say, “we’re going to disarticulate your limb. He’s going to say, we’re going to have to break this bone and reset it.”
This case will be widely watched for the effect that it will have on women throughout Kansas, and potentially in other states. This law would place an undue burden on women seeking to exercise their right to this procedure, which the United States Supreme Court also stated was unconstitutional in Stenberg v. Carhart. The Kansas Court of Appeals appropriately protected cited the rights to due process and equal protection for the women in Kansas.