Ahead of governors race, Kansas AG to appeal ruling blocking ban on abortion procedure

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As he works to attract Republican voters ahead of the August 2022 gubernatorial primary, Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt announced Wednesday that he will appeal a recent decision striking down a ban on a procedure that abortion opponents call “dismemberment abortion.”

Schmidt’s move continues a six-year court battle which led to the Kansas Supreme Court’s landmark 2019 decision that the state constitution protects the right to an abortion. The decision sparked the campaign for a constitutional amendment to overturn the ruling.

Kansas voters will decide on the gubernatorial primary and the constitutional amendment in August 2022.

In 2015, Kansas passed a bill banning dilation and evacuation abortions, most commonly used after the 14th or 15th week of pregnancy.

A preliminary injunction sought by the Center for Reproductive Rights early in the court case prevented the law from ever being enforced.

The matter reached the Kansas Supreme Court in 2019. When the high court ruled that abortion is a “fundamental right” guaranteed by the constitution, it also sent the 2015 law back to the district court.

Based on the ruling, a Shawnee County judge ruled in April that the ban was unconstitutional.

In a statement Wednesday, Schmidt said his appeal will ask the court to reconsider its interpretation that abortion is a fundamental right.

Genevieve Scott, Senior Staff Attorney at the Center for Reproductive Rights called Schmidt’s appeal a waste of taxpayer dollars.

“The Kansas Supreme Court has been extremely clear on this issue: abortion is protected as a fundamental right under the state constitution. We will continue to fight on behalf of Kansans in court,” Scott said in a statement.

In January the Kansas Legislature approved a constitutional amendment that would declare there is no state constitutional right to an abortion, and placed the question on the August 2022 ballot.

Jeanne Gawdun, director of government relations for Kansans for Life, said the vote will be important regardless of the outcome of Schmidt’s appeal.

“What the Supreme Court did was declare a path for unlimited abortion up to the moment of birth and paid for with tax dollars,” Gawdun said. “Its further evidence of why Value Them Both (supporters’ name for the amendment, referring to mother and child) is needed.”

If argued in the Supreme Court ahead of the August 2022 vote, the appeal will give Schmidt an opportunity to publicly defend abortion restrictions, potentially wooing anti-abortion voters driven to the polls by the amendment.

“I think there’s probably a mix of motivations here,” said Mandy Culbertson, director of communications for Planned Parenthood Great Plains.

“Both the constitutional amendment and this challenge to the Hodes decision is part of a larger agenda to undermine sexual and reproductive health and rights, and impose the values of a few on millions of Kansans.”

In a statement, former Gov. Jeff Colyer, who is running against Schmidt in the GOP primary, criticized the state’s highest court as out of touch with Kansans.

“This terrible ruling is the result of a terrible court. The only dissenter was the only justice appointed by our administration,” Colyer said.

“We need not only a constitutional amendment fixing this ruling but one fixing this out of control liberal court.”