Civil and Human Rights

Kansas Supreme Court hears arguments in case challenging ban on dismemberment abortions

By Jardine Malado

The Kansas Supreme Court has started hearing the arguments in a lawsuit challenging the state’s law prohibiting dismemberment abortions.

The law, titled Senate Bill 95, is being challenged by Dr. Herbert Hodes and his daughter, Dr. Traci Nauser.

Last Thursday, the court heard arguments on whether the state constitution includes the right to abortion.

The plaintiffs argue that the law violates the state Bill of Rights, which states that “all men are possessed of equal and inalienable natural rights, among which are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” Life News reported. Hodes and Nauser, who operate a women’s health center in the Kansas City suburb of Overland Park, maintained that the phrasing guarantees the right to abortion at any stage.

The 2015 law was initially put on hold by Shawnee County District Judge Larry Hendricks, who stated that it imposes an unconstitutional burden on women who seek abortions. Hendricks also declared that the general language in the Bill of Rights protects the right to an abortion.

His ruling was upheld following a split 7–7 decision by the Kansas Court of Appeals last year.

Kansans for Life argued in its friend-of-court briefs that the lower court decision blocking the law misinterprets both the statute and the state constitution, and that it should be reversed.

The Thomas More Society also filed a brief in support of the law banning dismemberment abortions, also known as “dilation and evacuation.” Special Counsel Paul Benjamin Linton, who filed the brief, maintained that the provision in the Bill of Rights does not create a right to abortion and therefore cannot be used to block the law.

Other organizations that filed friend-of-the-court briefs in support of the law include the Family Research Council, the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American College of Pediatricians and the Catholic Medical Association.

Friend-of-court briefs in support of Hodes and Nauser were filed by Constitutional Accountability Center, the American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

The law was based on a model legislation drafted by the National Right to Life Committee. According to the group, similar laws have been enacted in Oklahoma, West Virginia, Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana and Arkansas.

Opponents of the legislation noted that nearly all second-trimester abortions are performed using the dilation and evacuation method. In 2015, abortion providers reported performing 629 dilation and evacuation procedures, which accounts for nine percent of the state’s total abortions.

The court is expected to hand down a ruling within the next few months. The law may be headed to the nation’s highest court if the Kansas Supreme Court upholds the district court’s ruling.

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