TOPEKA — Hundreds of people marched in wet weather to the Capitol on Tuesday to affirm their opposition to abortion and denounce an anticipated ruling by the Kansas Supreme Court that a right to the procedure existed in the state constitution.
Anti-abortion politicians and lobbyists speculated the state’s highest court was poised to interpret the document in a manner that guaranteed the right to abortion in Kansas. That was the finding of a Topeka district court judge, but the Kansas Court of Appeals split on the issue and the question was placed before Supreme Court justices.
“Where is it exactly?” Kansans for Life leader Mary Kay Culp told marchers in a sarcastic tone of disbelief. “Oh, it’s in that part that says right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
Kansas House Majority Leader Dan Hawkins, R-Wichita, told the crowd an abortion amendment to the Kansas Constitution was essential regardless of how the Supreme Court viewed a state law banning a common second trimester abortion procedure. He said Kansans should vote to throttle judicial impediment to restricting abortion because “children are dying.”
“While we wait on a group of judges to decide fate of our pro-life laws, tens of thousands of innocent unborn lives hang in the balance,” he said. “We absolutely must pass a state constitutional amendment to defend the right to life in Kansas.”
The state Supreme Court, viewed as relatively liberal in relation to the Republican-dominated Legislature, conducted oral arguments in the case in early 2017. An abortion-rights decision by the justices could allow state courts in Kansas to chart their own course on abortion and invalidate restrictions the federal courts would uphold.
State Treasurer Jake LaTurner, who said he was considering a campaign for U.S. Senate, said abortion was the most important issue in Kansas.
“We need to stand up to be heard,” LaTurner said. “We need to stand up to the politicians who tout the empty lies of the pro-abortion community. We need to stand up and support pro-life elected officials that are doing the work. We need to stand up to the liberal elite, those that wish to marginalize people that think the way you and I do.”
Kansas Senate President Susan Wagle, a Wichita Republican also weighing a bid for the U.S. Senate, said the majority attitude of the Kansas Legislature had flipped during her 28-year career in Topeka to represent the anti-abortion perspective. She said the annual March for Life in Topeka contributed to that evolution in political thought.
“We have a strong pro-life majority in both the House and Senate,” Wagle said. “We do have an activist Supreme Court. They are highly likely to come down with a decision that is anti-life.”
An amendment to the Kansas Constitution would require consent of two-thirds of the House and Senate to be placed on a statewide ballot. Constitutional amendments require a simple majority among voters to pass.
“It’s expensive,” said Culp, executive director of Kansans to Life. “Tennessee went through it. It took them a decade. But, we can do it.”
In 2017, Kansas recorded 6,800 abortions, which was the lowest number in 30 years and 46 percent less than the peak of 12,400 two decades ago.