Kansas lawmakers have been forced to rethink the state’s draconian abortion restrictions in the wake of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that has struck down similar regulations in Texas.
The nation’s highest court ruled Monday that Texas laws requiring abortion providers to meet hospital-like standards for outpatient care and possess admitting privileges at nearby medical facilities are fundamentally unnecessary and unconstitutionally limit a woman’s right to an abortion.
“We conclude that neither of these provisions offers medical benefits sufficient to justify the burdens upon access that each imposes,” Justice Stephen Breyer wrote in the decision. “Each places a substantial obstacle in the path of women seeking a previability abortion, each constitutes an undue burden on abortion access, and each violates the Federal Constitution.”
Pro-choice advocates have since hailed the decision as the most significant victory for abortion rights in decades – and now that planned restrictions in Texas have been blocked, campaigners have argued that judges in seven other states must follow suit.
Kansas passed similar laws in 2011 stipulating that all abortions in the state must be performed only by physicians “with clinical privileges at a hospital located within 30 miles of the facility.” Controversial Kansas Governor Sam Brownback also backed a law dictating that all state abortion clinics be outfitted with surgical units.
But a Kansas state court put the implementation of both laws on hold pending the outcome of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on Monday.
Identical legislature relating to admitting privileges has already been enacted in neighboring Missouri.
According to Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri president Laura McQuade, Monday’s decision means that all such planned and implemented restrictions must now be axed and overturned.
“This is a monumental day for reproductive rights, reproductive health access, not only by the vote itself but by the content of this decision, which is broad and sweeping in nature,” she told The Topeka Capital-Journal. “PPKM will now look closely at our local laws and swiftly form a legal plan to work to overturn both restrictions in the state of Missouri and to ensure they never go into effect in Kansas.”
Conservative lawmakers in Kansas were left fuming by the decision and have already pledged to continue in their fight to impose further abortion restrictions.
“We are disappointed in the Supreme Court’s ruling,” Brownback spokeswoman Eileen Hawley told reporters. “But the governor will continue the fight to make Kansas a pro-life state.”
That being said, it appears that Monday’s ruling will definitely pose a major blow to Brownback and his plans to impose further restrictions on abortions in Kansas.
A spokeswoman for Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt has already said that his office will now be reviewing the legality of the state’s tabled 2011 abortion rules. That impending review will inevitably impact Kansas’ four medical facilities that currently provide abortion services.
Women’s rights activists and their legal representatives appear confident the outcome of Schmidt’s review will ensure that all pending regulations will be shelved indefinitely.
Attorney Bob Eye, who represents Wichita-based provider Trust Women, said Monday’s ruling would clearly provide “state legislators a good deal more guidance on just exactly what the court will consider to be an undue burden”.
Trust Women opened its doors in 2013, using the same Wichita building that was once occupied by physician George Tiller – who was brutally murdered by an anti-abortion activist in 2009.
Julie Burkhart, the group’s founder and CEO, told The Kansas City Star that the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision on Monday was “a good moment” for women.
That being said, the implications of Monday’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling won’t completely settle the ongoing debate over abortions in Kansas. The state is currently embroiled in at least three lawsuits challenging various other Kansas laws restricting abortion services.
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