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The Kansas bill would transfer abortion control to cities and counties


TOPEKA — A recently introduced bill would bring the fight against abortion to the county and city levels, allowing local governments to limit access to reproductive health care.

The latest in a series of attempts to limit abortion, Senate Bill 65 would give cities and counties the right to enact abortion laws that are stricter than the current state law. Senator Chase Blasi, R-Wichita, introduced the bill without naming him as a sponsor.

Under current state law, the use of drugs or devices that inhibit ovulation, fertilization, or embryo implantation, or birth control, such as IUDS, pills, and condoms, are legal, as is the disposal of IVF products prior to implantation, such as fertilized eggs. The state, along with any political subdivision of the state, has no right to prohibit these practices and devices. SB65 would keep this section of the law intact, but would allow local governments to restrict abortion.

SB 65 would stipulate that as long as abortion regulations are as stringent or stricter than state law, cities and counties have the right to regulate within area boundaries. The bill would roll back statewide protections, advocating for “stricter local regulation.” If approved, SB 65 would go into effect immediately.

During a Thursday meeting of the Senate Federal and State Affairs Committee, lawmakers chuckled as Blasi introduced the bill to limit reproductive rights for Kansas women.

“Any objections? Seeing none, that bill is being introduced,” Committee Chair Mike Thompson, R-Shawnee, said as he leaned back in his chair and laughed with Sen. Rick Kloos, R-Topeka and other committee lawmakers.

In Kansas, abortions are illegal after 22 weeks of gestation except in cases where the mother’s health is in danger. There have been no abortions performed outside this 22-week window in recent years, according to state records.

In 2019, the Kansas Supreme Court ruled that the state constitution’s right to bodily autonomy includes the right to terminate a pregnancy. Republicans have repeatedly stated their intentions to limit abortion access in the state, even as Kansans in August rejected a proposed constitutional amendment that would have given lawmakers the authority to ban abortions without exception.

In the Kansas GOP legislative agenda, abortion restrictions are mentioned as a top priority. Republican lawmakers want to implement tougher abortion laws and fund more crisis pregnancy centers in the state.

Republican Senators Molly Baumgardner, of Louisburg, and Rob Olson, of Olathe, said Monday they have not yet had a chance to review the legislation, but they oppose abortion.

“I won’t comment on the bill, but I’m 100 percent pro-life and I don’t support abortion,” Olson said.

Other abortion-related legislation introduced includes Senate Bill 5, sponsored by Senator Mark Steffen, R-Hutchinson. The bill would ban the prescribing of abortifacient drugs via telehealth and remove the governor’s ability to change the bans during a state of emergency.

House Minority Leader Vic Miller D-Topeka said he remained committed to defending women’s reproductive rights. Miller referred to the November retention of Kansas Supreme Court justices who upheld abortion rights, saying he showed broad support for these rights.

“These facts are why it is so deeply offensive to the vast majority of Kansasans who voted ‘NO’ that Republicans in the Kansas Senate have introduced more legislation to ban abortion,” Miller said in a statement. “We have a simple job in the legislature: to represent our constituents. With nearly 600,000 Kansan residents choosing to protect the right to reproductive health care, there is no excuse for this negligent, harmful and misogynistic legislation.”

Sunday marked the 50th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the historic decision that declared a constitutional right to abortion.

Emily Wales, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Great Plains, said the organization will honor the anniversary by fighting to protect access to abortion and contraception in Kansas, Arkansas, Missouri and Oklahoma.

“We may assume that the long arc of history bends towards justice, but we have a duty to grasp it and pull it in that direction,” Wales said in a statement. “We have worked to do this at Planned Parenthood Great Plains over the past year by serving as many patients seeking abortion care as possible, fighting hard to protect access in Kansas, and working to reassure and support all patients in our four states that we are here, and our doors remain open.”

Correction: An earlier version of this article stated that legislation may impact access to contraception such as IUDs and condoms. The legislation concerns only abortion.

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