Kansas Senate postpones abortion debate until Thursday because of absent legislators

Kansas Senate President Ty Masterson, R-Andover, said the Senate debate on the Value Them Both Amendment would be delayed until Thursday because of absent legislators. The debate originally was scheduled for Thursday of last week but was delayed for a similar reason. (Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)

TOPEKA — A Kansas legislator’s impromptu medical procedure delayed Senate action Monday over an anti-abortion constitutional amendment.

The Senate was set Monday to debate the Value Them Both amendment, but the absence of two legislators — Sen. Bud Estes, R-Dodge City, and Sen. Larry Alley, R-Winfield — forced Republican leadership to reschedule debate and votes to Thursday. The resolution was originally scheduled for debate last week but also was rescheduled then because of absent senators.

Addressing the Republican caucus, Senate President Ty Masterson said the delay was in the interest of making sure everyone has the opportunity to vote. In order to pass, the amendment requires a two-thirds majority vote from the chamber. Republicans hold a 29-11 majority and need 27 votes.

“We’ll take final action on those votes Thursday and that’s just to try to accommodate,” Masterson said. “Hopefully, now down in numbers, we are fully here at that point.” 

The House passed the constitutional amendment Friday by an 86-38 party-line vote, setting up the debate in the Senate. If passed through the Senate, the measure would be placed on a statewide ballot in the August 2022 primary.

If the constitutional amendment is approved by a majority of Kansas voters, it would reverse a Kansas Supreme Court decision declaring the state’s Bill of Rights provides women the right to an abortion in Kansas. 

This decision blocked a state law that banned abortion by dilation and evacuation, a procedure used for 95% of patients who choose to terminate a pregnancy in the second trimester. The ruling also protects abortion rights for Kansas women should Roe v. Wade be overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court.

On the Senate floor Monday, Sen. Dennis Pyle, R-Hiawatha, expressed gratitude to those he had received prayers and encouragement from following his absence that delayed the originally scheduled debate last week.

“Those of you that did not offer encouragement or prayer but instead offered the opposite, I hope you reap what you sowed,” he said.

Pyle, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, proposed an amendment last week to the anti-abortion measure that would have moved Value Them Both from the ballot of the August 2022 primary to the 2021 November general election. The proposed alteration was rejected by fellow committee members.

When asked if Pyle’s comments were directed at the GOP caucus, Senate Majority Leader Gene Suellentrop, R-Wichita, said he was unsure.

“I don’t know what individuals have conveyed to Senator Pyle, so it could be that’s who he was referring to, whether it was senators, whether it was House members,” Suellentrop said.

Republican senators promoting the bill have expressed a desire to keep the amendment identical to the resolution that passed through the House.