The Kansas Supreme Court could soon decide whether there’s a right to abortion in the state constitution.
Gov. Jeff Colyer wants lawmakers to consider amending the constitution to establish that such a right doesn’t exist.
In his first address to lawmakers this week, the Republican governor called for amending the Kansas Constitution to help protect state abortion restrictions.
That came in response to a case pending before the Kansas high court. Justices are considering a lower court ruling that recognized a right to abortion in the state constitution.
It’s an outgrowth from a legal fight over the state’s so-called “dismemberment abortion” ban, which bars dilation and evacuation procedures.
If the court rules the Kansas Constitution includes a right to abortion, that could put many state abortion restrictions on the books in jeopardy.
Colyer, speaking to a joint session of the Legislature, said the lower court ruling “cannot stand.”
“This is violence against basic facts,” Colyer said. “The stakes are so high, the issue is so foundational, the people of Kansas must have the final say.”
Republican Rep. Chuck Weber of Wichita said he’s been talking with other legislators about an amendment if the court finds a right to abortion in the constitution.
“[That] would definitely stoke the conversation,” Weber said. “I haven’t heard a lot at this point to push it without that.”
The Legislature has approved additional abortion restrictions in recent years and Weber said he believes a constitutional amendment would have broad support.
“A constitutional amendment … would just take this question out of the hands of unelected judges in the future,” Weber said. “It would really reflect the will of the people.”
Democratic Rep. Valdenia Winn of Kansas City said a constitutional amendment would draw the state back into fierce abortion debates.
“Here we’re going to have a fight over, as far as I’m concerned, current law,” Winn said. “Forces that think like me are not going to be intimidated.”
It takes a two-thirds majority of lawmakers and a vote from the public to approve constitutional amendments. House Majority Leader Don Hineman, a Republican from Dighton, agrees there could be wide support for a constitutional amendment on abortion.
“Whether it’s enough remains to be seen,” Hineman said. “It’s a high bar. It’s a high bar for a reason.”
Stephen Koranda is Statehouse reporter for Kansas Public Radio, a partner in the Kansas News Service. Follow him on Twitter @KPRKoranda.