A Kansas state judge on Thursday blocked a law that, if enacted, would ban the most commonly used method of ending a pregnancy in the second trimester. The ruling charged that the anti-choice law likely violated both the United States and Kansas constitutions.
SB 95 is scheduled to take effect on July 1 and bans dilation and evacuation (D and E) abortions by prohibiting doctors from using forceps, clamps, scissors, or similar instruments on a “living” fetus to remove it from the womb in parts. Anti-choice activists use graphic and medically inaccurate language, calling the procedure a “dismemberment abortion,” to stigmatize the method that is used in 8 percent of all abortions.
The new law, passed by the state’s Republican-dominated legislature, includes exceptions to protect the life and physical health of a woman, and does not apply if doctors ensure a fetus has died before using the instruments.
Attorneys from the Center for Reproductive Rights filed a lawsuit in June on behalf of a father-daughter team of board certified OB-GYNs, arguing the law is unconstitutional and should be blocked. Judge Larry Hendricks agreed, ruling from the bench Thursday that the law should be blocked while the challenge to it proceeds.
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“For now, the court has protected Kansas doctors from being thrown behind bars for providing the safe, quality, and individualized care their patients need and deserve,” Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, said in a statement following the ruling.
Kansas is the first state to enact such a measure, based off copycat legislation pushed by the National Right to Life Committee. Oklahoma legislators approved a similar law, but it does not take effect until November.
Judge Hendricks ruled the plaintiffs were likely to succeed on their claim that SB 95 unduly burdens abortion rights, as reported by the New York Times. Judge Hendricks reportedly ruled SB 95 likely violated the Kansas Constitution as well.
“We’re thrilled for our partners at the Center for Reproductive Rights, Doctors Hodes and Nauser, and most importantly the Kansas women who will benefit from Judge Hendricks’ decision,” said Laura McQuade, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri. “Judge Hendricks made it clear he agrees with Supreme Court precedent that a ban on Dilation and Evacuation abortion is unconstitutional, and his declaration that the Kansas Constitution protects abortion rights could have far-reaching implications for other extreme and restrictive state laws.”
If upheld, Hendricks’ ruling on a Kansas state constitutional right to an abortion could provide reproductive rights advocates with a new vehicle to challenge the myriad abortion restrictions in the state, including the state’s mandatory 24-hour delay and bans on insurance coverage for abortion services.