Kansas Supreme Court strikes down anti-abortion laws

July 5, 2024

The Kansas Supreme Court on Friday issued opinions overturning two laws limiting access to abortion, with the court finding again that the state constitution protects the right to personal autonomy, which includes a woman’s decisions about her own health, body and family planning.

One of the cases, filed in 2015, had previously been ruled on by the higher court. The law in question effectively banned the most common form of second-trimester abortion, dilation and evacuation, except for when necessary to save the life of the mother.

The Kansas Supreme Court ruled in 2019 that the state constitution protects personal autonomy, including when it comes to the decision of whether to continue a pregnancy, and that any government infringement on this right must be able to “withstand strict scrutiny.”

The case was sent down to a district court, which found there was “no reasonable alternative” to dilation and evacuation and that the Kansas state government failed to prove the law was constitutional, permanently blocking it from being enforced. The state Supreme Court upheld that decision this week.

“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. We decline the invitation,” Justice Eric S. Rosen wrote in the opinion.

Deciding on another lawsuit, first filed in 2011, the Kansas Supreme Court also affirmed a lower court’s ruling that found licensing requirements for abortion providers infringed on women’s right to bodily autonomy and do not survive strict scrutiny.

The Kansas state Legislature passed legislation in 2011 imposing new regulations on facilities that provide abortion care, including “any clinic, hospital or ambulatory surgical center, in which any second or third trimester elective abortion, or five or more first trimester elective abortions are performed in a month, excluding any abortion performed due to a medical emergency.”

Among the requirements was that a physician had to be in the room when a drug to induce an abortion was administered to a patient.

The state had argued that the plaintiffs in the lawsuit lacked standing, and also that the district court had erred in its judgment. But the state high court agreed that the law was unconstitutional and found that there was standing, as the plaintiffs, a women’s health clinic, had proven it faced “an actual or threatened injury” due to the law.