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Attorney general seeks abortion appeal delay until after constitutional amendment vote

By: - October 21, 2021 3:24 pm
Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt asked the Kansas Supreme Court to delay work on his appeal a district court's ruling on abortion until after the statewide August vote on a proposed abortion amendment to the Kansas Constitution. (May 2021 photo by Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)

Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt says a federal court ruling on how COVID-19 relief can be spent “confirms our view that the Constitution does not permit the federal government to micromanage how Kansas sets its own state-level tax policy.” (May 2021 photo by Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)

TOPEKA — Attorney General Derek Schmidt, a candidate for governor in 2022, requested the Kansas Supreme Court delay consideration of his appeal of a district court ruling that found unconstitutional a state law banning a specific abortion procedure.

A judge in Shawnee County District Court decided the case based on the 2019 opinion from the Kansas Supreme Court declaring the Kansas Constitution provided women a right to abortion.

Schmidt, who is seeking the Republican Party’s nomination to challenge Gov. Laura Kelly, submitted a motion Wednesday that would idle progress on the appeal. He asked the Supreme Court to wait until voters in August decided fate of a proposed constitutional amendment that could affirm or invalidate the Supreme Court’s precedent.

Schmidt said the Supreme Court was unlikely to conclude its consideration of the appeal prior to the Aug. 2 primary. Proceeding with an appeal could needlessly consume time and resources if a majority of Kansans voted in favor of the amendment, he said.

“If the Value Them Both Amendment is adopted, any additional proceedings will have been for nothing,” Schmidt told the justices. “A stay of proceedings is in the interest of judicial economy and would allow the people of Kansas to express their will on this important constitutional question before potentially unnecessary litigation occurs.”

A two-thirds majority of the Kansas House and Kansas Senate voted to place the abortion amendment on a statewide ballot. GOP lawmakers in favor of the amendment determined it would be to their advantage to hold the constitutional amendment vote during the low-turnout August primary rather place it on the general election ballot in November 2022 when more people would be expected to participate.

Adoption of the constitutional amendment would reverse the Supreme Court’s decision on abortion in Hodes & Nauser vs. Schmidt.

In July, Schmidt said he would appeal Shawnee County District Court Judge Teresa Watson’s decision that a state law banning a certain method of abortion violated the Kansas Constitution’s Bill of Rights.

Watson said in her ruling she disagreed with the Supreme Court’s legal conclusion that the state constitution provided women a “fundamental right to abortion.” Despite rejection of the Supreme Court’s reasoning, she said, she was bound by the high court’s precedent.

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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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