Lawmaker draws up new abortion amendment

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A Kansas House member is working on a proposed constitutional amendment that would let voters again decide whether the state constitution protects the right to an abortion.

Republican state Rep. Randy Garber of Sabetha circulated a copy of a proposed constitutional amendment in the House seeking cosponsors.

It would need support from two-thirds of the Legislature to pass. He plans to file the bill on Feb. 3 after giving lawmakers time to sign onto the legislation.

The amendment would go on the ballot in November 2024 under the draft proposal.

“This is a simple amendment that says there is no natural right to an abortion in the constitution,” Garber said in a letter to House members.

“I would think that anyone who says they are pro-life would be willing to cosponsor this legislation,” he wrote.

Garber is developing the amendment about five months after Kansans rejected a similar proposal at the polls with about 60% of the vote.

“With the overwhelming defeat of VTB amendment, I continue to hear ‘the people of Kansas have spoken’ so stop beating a dead horse,” he wrote, alluding to the Value Them Both amendment that was defeated last August.

“I doubt if VTB had passed that pro-abortion advocates would fade quietly into the sunset,” he said.

In an interview, Garber said he was disappointed with the outcome of the August vote on the Value Them Both amendment and didn’t like how it was written.

“I think if we had made it a little more simpler, maybe we would have had a better chance of getting that passed,” he said.

“I think we should continue to try to protect children and babies in the womb, and I’m going to continue to do it,” he said.

Kansans for Life, one of the chief supporters of the abortion amendment, has laid out a legislative agenda that does not include revisiting the August vote.

KFL is working to get more state funding for pregnancy crisis centers, which try to discourage abortions. It also wants to take steps to discourage medical abortions.

Ashley All, who was the lead spokesperson for the campaign opposing the amendment, said new language won’t change what happened last summer.

“Last August, Kansans voted overwhelmingly to protect the constitutional rights of women to make their own medical decisions free from government interference,” All said in an email.

“Changing the wording of the amendment does not change the position of Kansans, nor does it change the fact that these lawmakers are trying to ban abortion outright,” she said.

House Speaker Dan Hawkins said GOP leadership is most interested in keeping current limits on abortion in place.

“Our focus remains on protecting the common-sense restrictions that are already in state law such as limits on late-term abortion, preventing taxpayer funding of abortion, and requiring parental consent for minors seeking an abortion,” Hawkins said in a statement.

“Supporting pregnancy crisis centers and the women who need them will also remain a priority,” he said.

Last week, Republican state Sen. Chase Blasi of Wichita introduced a bill that would repeal a state law that bars local governments from regulating or restricting abortion.

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.