Bill would allow Kansas local governments to restrict abortion

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(Developing: Will be updated)

A Wichita lawmaker on Thursday introduced legislation that would clear the way for local governments in Kansas to regulate abortion.

Republican sate Sen. Chase Blasi is backing a bill that would repeal a state law that bars local governments from regulating or restricting abortion.

The bill was introduced in the Senate Federal & State Affairs Committee on Thursday morning.

Chase Blasi

Blasi, who recently replaced Gene Suellentrop in the Senate, introduced the bill less than six months after voters rejected a constitutional amendment that would have explicitly removed the right to an abortion from the state constitution.

The amendment lost in 27 of the Senate’s 40 districts, including District 27 represented by Blasi. The amendment lost in 90 out of 125 House districts.

The lawmaker said he believes there was a lot of confusion about the amendment and it does not pose a political problem in his district.

Blasi said the bill is in response to his constituents who “believe firmly in the fight for life.

“This is just one step to allow the conversation on a more local level,” Blasi said. “I think the locals should have a conversation about this issue.

“If there are challenges to that, we’ll see what the courts allow because there is so much ambiguity in what the law allows.”

In 2019, the state Supreme Court found that a right to an abortion was protected by the state constitution.

The court’s ruling effectively set a higher legal standard of “strict scrutiny” for abortion restrictions in Kansas.

Under a strict scrutiny standard, any new restrictions are presumptively unconstitutional unless the state can show they were narrowly tailored to serve a compelling state interest.

Planned Parenthood criticized the proposal, which Blasi said was not sought by any particular local government seeking to ban abortion.

“The irony of this bill is too much,” said Anamarie Rebori Simmons, spokesperson for Planned Parenthood Great Plains Votes.

“The party that tried to remove fundamental protections from the state constitution didn’t get the outcome they wanted when Kansans overwhelming supported abortion access,” she said.

“This is an attempt to blatantly disregard the will of the people. Abortion rights won in a landslide, including in the home county of the bill’s sponsor.

“Politicians serve as the voice of the people in the legislature, and Republican lawmakers should know better than to silence those they represent.”

Kansans for Life said its attorneys haven’t looked at the legislation yet.

The group stopped short of saying whether it supported the bill.

“The reality is Kansas remains a destination for abortion,” said Jeanne Gawdun, KFL’s director of government relations.

“KFL’s priorities include promoting policies that steer resources to women facing unexpected pregnancies and help them make life-affirming decisions for themselves and their babies,” Gawdun said in a statement.

The Kansas bill comes about a week after Democratic lawmakers in New Mexico took the converse approach to abortion.

They proposed legislation that barred New Mexico cities from limiting access to abortion in response to a town near the Texas border that passed an ordinance designed to ban abortions

New Mexico is the only state adjacent to Texas where abortion is legal and its largest cities have attracted women seeking an abortion.