Top Kansas court rules state constitution protects abortion rights

(Reuters) – The Kansas Supreme Court ruled on Friday that the state’s constitution protects a woman’s right to an abortion and upheld an injunction blocking a state law that would have banned a common second trimester abortion procedure.

FILE PHOTO: An exam room at the Planned Parenthood South Austin Health Center is seen in Austin, Texas, U.S. June 27, 2016. REUTERS/Ilana Panich-Linsman

The ruling would protect the right to abortion in Kansas even if the conservative-leaning U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v Wade, the 1973 ruling that recognized a right to abortion in the U.S. Constitution.

Rulings by state appeals courts on state constitutional issues are not normally subject to U.S. Supreme Court review.

The state’s constitution protects “the right to control one’s own body, to assert bodily integrity, and to exercise self-determination,” wrote the court.

“This right allows a woman to make her own decisions regarding her body, health, family formation, and family life — decisions that can include whether to continue a pregnancy.”

The case stems from challenges to 2015 law that generally banned the dilation and evacuation procedure, which was termed “dismemberment abortion” by the supporters of the law. Kansas became the first state to ban the practice.

The plaintiffs in the case, Dr. Herbert Hodes and Dr. Traci Nauser, a father and daughter, run a clinic in Overland Park, that provides abortions.

Political leaders in the state were quick to praise or condemn the ruling.

“While federal law has long guaranteed every woman the right to make their own medical decisions in consultation with their healthcare providers, I’m pleased that the Kansas Supreme Court’s decision now conclusively respects and recognizes that right under Kansas law as well,” said Kansas Governor Laura Kelly, a Democrat.

“Today the liberal, activist Supreme Court showed just how out of touch they are with Kansas values,” said Susan Wagle, the Republican president of the state senate.

The ruling ensures a right to an abortion in Kansas unless the state amends its constitution. It also comes as more states adopt restrictions on abortion procedures.

Activists on both sides say laws restricting abortions, which are commonly blocked by courts, are aimed at getting a case to the U.S. Supreme Court, where conservatives hold a 5-4 majority.

U.S. President Donald Trump used his annual State of the Union speech in February to push lawmakers to adopt more restrictions on abortion.

On Thursday, a federal judge in Washington state blocked a Trump administration rule that would prohibit taxpayer-funded family planning clinics from referring patients to abortion providers.

Additional reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York, Karen Pierog in Chicago, Lawrence Hurley in Washington and Nate Raymond in Boston; Editing by David Gregorio

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