Proposed constitutional amendment would outlaw abortions in Kansas

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WICHITA, Kan. (KAKE) -

Twenty-one state lawmakers want to ban abortions in Kansas by changing the state's constitution.  

Monday they introduced HCR 5004, a proposed constitutional amendment that would "guarantee the inalienable rights, equal protection and due process of law of every human being from the beginning of the biological development of that human being, including fertilization."

"The idea of creating a right of personhood that would extend to a fetus is kind of a logical development of the argument of the Pro-Life forces in America," said Dr. Neal Allen, director of the Political Science Department at Wichita State University.

Supporters of the proposed constitutional amendment agree. They say guaranteeing equal rights to all persons in Kansas from the moment of conception is the only way.

"Currently it seems like the unborn do not have enough protection or any rights," said Rep. Doug Blex, (R) Independence, one of the 21 members of the Kansas House to sponsor the resolution.  KAKE News has reached out to all 21 for comment.  Blex says it's about doing what his constituents want.  "I have a pretty rural, conservative district for the most part, people that support the right to life at all stages, including conception."

"This is a really outrageous attempt to grant fetal personhood," said Katie Knutter with Trust Women Foundation, which runs the South Wind Women's Clinic in Wichita.

She and other opponents of the amendment say it could go much further than just banning abortions.

"We don't know exactly what all it could do.  But potentially it could affect access to birth control, particularly long-acting methods such as IUDs.  It also might affect in vitro fertilization. It could conceivable affect other types of things."

Some are concerned the way this amendment is written, it could even end up banning the death penalty in Kansas.

Political analysts say trying to figure out what this amendment would really do in Kansas is hard right now, with a U.S. Supreme Court moving to the right.

"This kind of amendment could have a lot more policy consequences now than it might have had four years ago," Dr. Allen said.  

This proposal comes as lawmakers wait to find out if the Kansas Supreme Court thinks the current constitution protects the right to an abortion.

The amendment would require two-thirds of the House and Senate membership to approve putting the proposal on the November ballot in 2020.  It would then require approval by two-thirds of Kansas voters to become part of the state constitution.

According to a Pew Research Center poll, 49% of Kansans believe abortion should be legal in all or most cases, 49% believe abortion should always be illegal.

A KDHE report shows 6,782 abortions performed in Kansas in 2017.  That's the fewest since the 6,409 abortions performed in 1987 and down from the high of 12,455 abortions performed in 1999.

In order to get an abortion in Kansas, women must get state-directed counseling, have an ultrasound and wait 24 hours before they can get the procedure.