Editorial Roundup: Kansas

Kansas City Star. January 26, 2023.

Editorial: Kansas politicians want to take abortion fight to the city and county level. Just stop

In Kansas, a woman’s right to reproductive freedom is enshrined in the state constitution. The issue should be settled — especially after voters preemptively and decisively smacked down lawmakers’ last overreach to gut abortion rights. Apparently, according to Kansas Republicans, it isn’t.

GOP leaders in Kansas have made it known that their agenda for 2023 is to restrict abortion access around the state. Any attempt to bring that fight to the local level must be rejected.

Kansas Senate Bill 65, a proposed piece of legislation that would turn abortion control over to cities and counties in the Sunflower State, caught our attention. Kansans don’t need a hodgepodge of nonsensical laws governing a woman’s body. Any law that restricts a woman’s health choice is a bad one — locally or statewide.

This needless proposal, introduced recently by freshman Republican state Sen. Chase Blasi of Wichita, is emblematic of a broader issue: The state GOP’s unwillingness to accept the voters’ decision that women have the right to choose what to do with their bodies. The proposed measure would allow city or county officials to enact abortion laws more restrictive than current state law on abortions.

The idea that abortion in Kansas is widely available on demand is perhaps the most egregious myth propagated by opponents of personal choice. Abortions are already heavily regulated in the state. Only five clinics in Kansas, in just three cities, provide the procedure. Local jurisdictions can’t ban what doesn’t exist within their borders.

Abortion is legal up to 22 weeks of pregnancy. After that, a pregnant woman’s health must be at risk to terminate a pregnancy. Minors must have parental consent. According to state records, there have been no abortions in Kansas after the 22-week restriction in recent history.

After the Supreme Court reversed its landmark Roe v. Wade ruling, returning the issue back to the state level, reproductive rights have been challenged and taken away in other states, including Missouri.

Just months after that decision, voters in traditionally conservative Kansas rejected the “Value Them Both” constitutional amendment, which would have let politicians further restrict the procedure. In November, voters again spoke loudly at the ballot box by retaining all the Kansas Supreme Court judges on the ballot who endorsed that court’s 2019 ruling on the fundamental right to abortion in the state.

Rather fittingly, Blasi didn’t put his name on the bill as its sponsor, the nonprofit Kansas Reflector reported. Until he does, S.B. 65 isn’t worth the ink on the paper it’s printed on.

Allowing local governments to limit access to reproductive health care is irresponsible and ignores hundreds of thousands of Kansans who voted to uphold a woman’s right to choose.

For some lawmakers, limiting reproductive rights for women in Kansas seems to be a source of comedy. Last week, during a Senate federal and state affairs committee meeting chaired by Republican Mike Thompson of Shawnee, GOP state Sen. Rick Kloos and others on the committee chuckled as Blasi introduced the bill, according to The Reflector.

Tactless displays of nonprofessionalism have no place at the Kansas State Capitol. A woman choosing what’s best for her health is a serious matter. And there’s nothing funny about S.B. 65. Further regulation of abortion at the local level is bad policy, and an attempt to circumvent state law.

The people and the courts have been clear that women’s rights are enshrined in the Kansas Constitution, and shouldn’t be infringed upon. GOP politicians’ continued attack on reproductive freedom is an affront to democracy and ignores the intent of every Kansan who rejected government further involving itself in the most personal of decisions.