BREAKING: Abortion amendment clears Kansas Legislature

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(Developing: Will be updated)

Kansas could become the seventh state in the country to pass a constitutional amendment that would ensure abortion is not a fundamental state right.

The Kansas Senate voted 28-11 to approve a constitutional amendment overturning a 2019 state Supreme Court decision that found abortion is a protected right embedded in the state constitution. The House approved the amendment last week.

The vote puts the amendment on the August 2022 ballot, setting up what could be a hot campaign to ratify the measure at the polls at the same time as there is likely to be a Republican primary for governor and House members will be up for reelection.

It’s a campaign that will likely reach into the millions of dollars and will likely see cash flowing into Kansas from out-of-state interests.

“The state has a history of being known as bloody Kansas because we fought for this to be the great free state of Kansas so there would not be slavery,” said Republican state Sen. Mollly Baumgardner of Louisburg.

“But the state of Kansas has had the reputation of being a bloody state because of the late-term abortions, because of a lack of regulation,” she said. “I don’t want that to turn back because of the court.”

The Kansas Legislature passed the constitutional amendment less than 24 hours after the Iowa House passed a similar amendment and just three months after Louisiana voters agreed to amend their constitution in a similar way with 62% of the vote.

Three years ago, Alabama and West Virginia passed similar measures.

The amendment passed in Alabama with 59 percent of the vote, while it was approved in West Virginia with 52% of the vote. Other constitutional amendments have been passed in Arkansas and Rhode Island.

The amendment would give state lawmakers the right to regulate abortion despite the state Supreme Court’s ruling, which set a higher judicial standard for evaluating abortion regulations passed by the Legislature.

The measure would allow state legislators to regulate abortion in cases of pregnancy resulting from rape or incest, or when necessary to save the life of the mother.

Opponents said the amendment clears a path for the Legislature to ban abortion outright if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade and finds that abortion is not protected by the U.S. Constitution.

“This amendment absolutely opens the door to a full ban on abortions,” said Senate Minority Leader Dinah Sykes.

Sykes challenged Republicans who said the amendment was not about banning abortion in  the long term, pointing to their refusal to write exceptions into the measure for rape, incest or protecting the life of the mother.

“When, not if, this promise is broken, (we) will have blood on our hands,” Sykes said.

“Bans on abortion lead to unsafe, unregulated procedures. Bans force physicians to forego their oath and allow their patients to die because politicians in Topeka think they know better,” she said.

Supporters of the amendment said the court’s decision threatened a series of abortion limits pass by the Legislature in the last decade, including clinic regulations that have been blocked in court since 2011.

The amendment is not a ban on abortion, Baumgardner said.

“What it does is it works to retain those pieces of legislation that have been passed in the House, passed in the Senate and signed into law by the executive branch,” she said.

Planned Parenthood called the amendment “flawed” and “dangerous” and promised a vigorous fight leading up to the August 2022 primary.

“The politicians and organizations behind this constitutional amendment have clearly said that they believe all abortions should be banned and illegal, no matter what,” said Rachel Sweet, regional director of public policy and organizing for Planned Parenthood Great Plains Votes.

“Permanently changing our constitution to remove the right to abortion — with no exceptions for a women’s health or for cases of rape or incest — is the first step to banning abortion in Kansas. We will fight this all the way to the ballot box.”