Gov. Laura Kelly affirmed support for Kansas constitutional protection of a woman's right to abortion Thursday after the Kansas Senate passed an amendment in conflict with her view and elevating suspense of an upcoming Kansas House vote on the measure.
Kelly said the pending constitutional amendment would discriminate against women by allowing politicians to interfere with each woman's private medical decisions.
"I cannot stand by and watch as a blatantly political attack is waged on women’s rights," Kelly said. "This would throw the state back into the dark ages. Legislators in Topeka with no medical training have no right to make a woman’s medical decisions."
"And let's put to rest that this has anything to do with empowering voters. It is strictly about empowering politicians in this building," the governor said.
The Kansas Supreme Court issued a controversial decision in 2019 that found the state's Bill of Rights granted women fundamental freedom over their bodies. The Kansas Senate on Wednesday adopted a constitutional amendment to reverse the court. It would be placed on the August primary ballot if also affirmed by the Kansas House.
The Democratic governor said public acceptance of the amendment would set the stage, if the U.S. Supreme Court reversed the Roe v. Wade decision, for an eventual ban on abortion in Kansas. Proponents of the amendment, however, argue passage of the measure would prevent the state Supreme Court from striking down Kansas laws regulating abortion.
She urged the House to reject the amendment on constitutional, medical and economic grounds. It's not clear whether House Republicans have the necessary 84 vote.
"What the governor is really saying is that she doesn’t want the people of Kansas to have a say on this issue," said House Speaker Ron Ryckman, R-Olathe. "The constitutional amendment would restore the power to the people, so that Kansans, not politicians or judges, can make the call."
Senate President Susan Wagle, R-Wichita, said the governor had no official role in a process that would be determined by the Legislature and the general public.
"The governor inserted herself into a process which she has no authority over," Wagle said. "You may ask yourself, 'Why would she insert herself into this process?' She has a voting record."
Wagle said Kelly voted as a Topeka senator in opposition to abortion clinic licensing laws. The governor's views aren't in step with the 28-12 majority in the Senate that backed the amendment, she said.
"Kansans deserve safe medical services," said Sen. Molly Baumgardner, a Louisburg Republican who voted for the abortion amendment. "Our clinics need to adhere to oversight. That minors do have parental consent before they have a surgical procedure performed, such as an abortion."
Kelly said other states that passed amendments similar to Kansas' subsequently moved to severely restrict women's access to health care. Alabama passed an abortion criminalization bill last year that jeopardized that state's business climate, she said. When Georgia proposed a six-week abortion ban, she said, businesses such as Netflix and Disney, WarnerMedia, AMC Networks, NBCUniversal and CBS threatened to pull their business out of the state, she said.
"We have businesses looking to Kansas and considering relocating and growing our economy," Kelly said. "Regressive actions such as the one endorsed last night in the Senate will make companies think twice about coming here."