Health professional coalition seeks passage of Kansas abortion constitutional amendment

About 200 reject court opinion finding Bill of Rights guarantees access to abortion

By: - June 10, 2022 2:48 pm
A coalition of health professionals joined forces Friday to support passage Aug. 2 of a proposed amendment to the Kansas Constitution that would reject a Kansas Supreme Court decision finding the state's Bill of Rights guaranteed women the right to abortion. (Tim Carpenter/Kansas Reflector)

A coalition of health professionals joined forces Friday to support passage Aug. 2 of a proposed amendment to the Kansas Constitution that would reject a Kansas Supreme Court decision finding the state’s Bill of Rights guaranteed women the right to abortion. (Tim Carpenter/Kansas Reflector)

TOPEKA — Advocates of an amendment to the Kansas Constitution declaring the state’s Bill of Rights shouldn’t guarantee access to abortion announced Friday the formation of an alliance of health professionals backing the August ballot initiative.

The group of more than 200 physicians, nurses, pharmacists and surgeons joined with Kansans for Life and other organizations to recommend approval of the amendment reversing a 2019 Kansas Supreme Court decision that outlined the right to abortion in Kansas.

Lisa Gilbert, a physician in Wichita, said the state Supreme Court undermined the legal foundation for regulation of abortion in the state. The court’s legal standard didn’t eliminate state laws regulating abortion clinics, but established a right to abortion in the state even if the U.S. Supreme Court reversed the landmark Roe v. Wade decision.

“The court decreed that virtually any limitation or regulation on abortion are presumed unconstitutional,” said Gilbert, who asserted the state court’s action made Kansas “a destination for extreme abortions.”

The pro-amendment group included 120 physicians along with nurses, licensed psychotherapists and counselors.

Kelly Byrd, a Kansas City-based pediatrician, said during a news conference the group of health professionals came together through a grassroots outreach process. The group drafted an open letter praising the Value Them Both Amendment, which will be on the Aug. 2 primary ballot statewide.

“Passing the Value Them Both Amendment is vital to returning our state to a place where the abortion industry is not left unlimited or unregulated and should not be allowed to police itself,” Byrd said.

Rejection of the amendment would reinforce the state Supreme Court’s belief the constitution shielded the right to abortion from political attack by the Kansas Legislature. Adoption of the amendment would affirm the Legislature was in charge of determining the shape of abortion law in Kansas, including passage of bills banning or criminalizing performing or obtaining abortion services.

The preliminary abortion statistical report from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment documented 7,849 abortions in Kansas during 2021. That represented a 4.1% increase over the 2020 total.

The KDHE said 85% of abortions in Kansas were sought by unmarried women and 60% of women who received an abortion had given birth to at least one child. In 2021, seven out of 10 abortions in Kansas were performed within nine weeks of the pregnancy. No abortions in Kansas last year were performed after 22 weeks of pregnancy.

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Tim Carpenter
Tim Carpenter

Tim Carpenter has reported on Kansas for 35 years. He covered the Capitol for 16 years at the Topeka Capital-Journal and previously worked for the Lawrence Journal-World and United Press International. He has been recognized for investigative reporting on Kansas government and politics. He won the Kansas Press Association's Victor Murdock Award six times. The William Allen White Foundation honored him four times with its Burton Marvin News Enterprise Award. The Kansas City Press Club twice presented him its Journalist of the Year Award and more recently its Lifetime Achievement Award. He earned an agriculture degree at Kansas State University and grew up on a small dairy and beef cattle farm in Missouri. He is an amateur woodworker and drives Studebaker cars.

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