Kansas GOP Pushes Local Abortion Bans After Voters Rejected State Law

“This is an attempt to blatantly disregard the will of the people.”

By Julia Conley  Published 1-20-2023 by Common Dreams

Stop Abortion Bans rally in St. Paul, Minnesota on May 21, 2019. Photo: Fibonacci Blue/flickr/CC

Kansas voters left little room for interpretation when a sizable majority voted in August to reject a ballot measure that would have paved the way for a statewide abortion ban—but that isn’t stopping Republicans from attempting to force residents to continue unwanted pregnancies by imposing city-by-city bans.

State Sen. Chase Blasi on Thursday introduced Senate Bill 65, which would authorize cities and counties “to enact local laws more stringent than state law regarding regulation of abortion” and would repeal the state law which prohibits “political subdivisions” from enacting bans.

The proposal’s language makes clear that cities and counties would not be permitted to protect abortion rights if a state ban were to be imposed in the future—only to pass bans if abortion care remains legal in Kansas.

“The irony of this bill is too much,” Anamarie Rebori Simmons, a spokesperson for Planned Parenthood Great Plains Votes, told The New Republic on Friday. “The party that tried to remove fundamental protections from the state constitution didn’t get the outcome they wanted when Kansans overwhelmingly supported abortion access. This is an attempt to blatantly disregard the will of the people.”

Blasi proposed the legislation five months after 59% of Kansas voters rejected a ballot measure which would have removed the right to abortion care from the state constitution. In 2019, the Kansas Supreme Court ruled that under the constitution, pregnant people have a “right to personal autonomy” and that Kansans could legally obtain abortion care even if Roe v. Wade was overturned as it was last year.

The rejection of the ballot measure in August was seen as a major victory for abortion rights advocates and a clear illustration of the fact that Americans in both red and blue states “want to make their own decisions about abortion,” as Nancy Northrup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, said at the time.

Since then, voters in Michigan, California, Kentucky, Montana, and Vermont have been asked whether they support or oppose restricting reproductive rights, and in all the states they have voted in favor of abortion access.

Washington Post reporter Caroline Kitchener noted that proposals like Blasi’s “could become part of the playbook for combating the success of ballot initiatives that protect the right to abortion.”

In Kansas, Rebori Simmons told The New Republic, “Abortion rights won in a landslide, including in the home county of the bill’s sponsor.”

“Politicians serve as the voice of the people in the legislature,” she said, “and Republican lawmakers should know better than to silence those they represent.”

This work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0).

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