Kansans for Life executive director Mary Kay Culp routinely struggles with abortion decisions handed down by the Kansas Supreme Court.

But she said the sweeping ruling in April declaring the Kansas Constitution's Bill of Rights granted women the right to decide whether to continue a pregnancy should inspire anti-abortion activists to amend the state's foundational document. Kansas' leading pro-life organization, Kansans for Life, would be at the point of that public policy spear.

"We're angry and we're motivated," Culp said on the Capitol Insider podcast of The Topeka Capital-Journal. "We're going to do everything we can to pass a constitutional amendment."

 

A majority of the Supreme Court said the Bill of Rights "affords protection of the right of personal autonomy, which includes the ability to control one's own body." It's an argument that sounded Republican and conservative, but Culp couldn't comprehend how the justices invoked such a right when deciding constitutionality of a law forbidding an abortion procedure relied upon during the second trimester of pregnancy.

"I don't have the right to control my own body and go out and shoot somebody," she said. "The word abortion is not in the 1859 constitution."

She said the Supreme Court invented a protection for abortion rights and potentially opened up existing restrictions to legal challenge.

Peter Northcott, who is a lobbyist with Kansans for Life, said timing of a constitutional amendment rebutting the Supreme Court could be complicated if lawmakers placed other amendments on that ballot that drove pro-choice voters to the polls. It's also a challenge to raise financing to conduct a statewide campaign on behalf of abortion amendments, he said.

The pro-choice perspective of Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly could be sidestepped if two-thirds majorities in the House and Senate agreed to send a constitutional amendment on abortion to public vote. A simply majority of Kansans voting on the question would decide the issue.

That's not the case regarding the bill vetoed by Kelly during the 2019 legislative session that would have required abortion providers to inform patients about the potential of interrupting a medication abortion after the procedure was started. The Republican-dominated House failed to overrride Kelly's veto, an anti-abortion setback alien to Kansans for Life during the eight years Republicans Sam Brownback and Jeff Colyer served as Kansas governor.

"This is unnecessary legislation that would interfere with the relationship between women and their physicians," Kelly said after the override fell short.

Northcott said Brownback and Colyer held opinions on abortion that rivaled Kelly and former Democratic Gov. Kathleen Sebelius.

"The contrast couldn't be more clear," he said. "Certainly, under the Brownback and Colyer administrations, there was a partner that Kansans for Life could work with to ensure that pro-life legislation was enacted to protect pre-born children and their mothers."