By RACHEL MIPRO
TOPEKA – A recently introduced bill would bring the abortion fight to the county and city level, allowing local governments to restrict access to reproductive health care.
The latest in a series of attempts to restrict abortion, Senate Bill 65 would give cities and counties the right to enact stricter laws on abortion than current state law. Senator Chase Blasi, R-Wichita, introduced the bill without putting his sponsor name on it.
Under current state law, using drugs or devices that inhibit ovulation, fertilization, or implantation of the embryo — that is, birth control, such as IUDs, pills, and condoms — is considered legal, as is disposing of the products of in vitro fertilization before implantation, such as fertilized eggs. The state, along with any political subdivision of the state, has no right to prohibit these practices and devices.
SB65 is seeking to reverse this by withdrawing statewide protections from these drugs and devices. The law states that as long as abortion regulations are as strict as or stricter than state law, cities and counties have the right to regulate within the boundaries of the territory. The bill would override statewide protections and maintain “stricter local regulation.” If passed, SB65 would take effect immediately.
At a Thursday meeting of the Senate Federal and State Committee, lawmakers chuckled when Blasi introduced the bill to limit reproductive rights for women in Kansas.
“Any objection? If he doesn’t see one, that bill will be introduced,” said committee chairman Mike Thompson, R-Shawnee, as he leaned back in his chair and laughed with Senator Rick Kloos, R-Topeka, and other lawmakers on the committee.
In Kansas, abortion after 22 weeks of pregnancy is illegal, except in cases where the mother’s health is at risk. According to state records, no abortions have been performed outside of this 22-week period in recent years.
In 2019, the Kansas Supreme Court ruled that the state constitution’s right to bodily autonomy includes the right to terminate a pregnancy. Republicans have repeatedly stated their intent to restrict access to abortion in the state, although in August Kansans voted against a proposed constitutional amendment that would have given lawmakers the power to ban abortion without exceptions.
The Kansas GOP legislative agenda lists abortion restrictions as a high priority. Republican lawmakers want to introduce stricter abortion laws and fund more crisis pregnancy centers in the state.
Republican Senator Molly Baumgardner of Louisburg and Rob Olson of Olathe said Monday they have not yet had a chance to review the legislation, but they oppose abortion.
“I’m not going to comment on the bill, but I’m 100 percent pro-life and I’m not in favor of abortion,” Olson said.
Other abortion-related legislation introduced includes Senate Bill 5, sponsored by Senator Mark Steffen, R-Hutchinson. The bill would ban the prescription of abortion drugs via telemedicine and deprive the governor of the ability to change the bans during a state of emergency.
D-Topeka House Minority Leader Vic Miller said he remains committed to defending women’s reproductive rights. Miller referred to the November detention of Kansas Supreme Court justices upholding abortion rights, saying it showed widespread support for these rights.
“These facts are why it is so deeply offensive to the vast majority of Kansas people who voted ‘NO’ that Republicans in the Kansas Senate have passed multiple laws to ban abortion,” Miller said in a statement. “We have a simple job in the legislature: to represent our voters. With nearly 600,000 Kansans choosing to protect the right to reproductive health care, there is no excuse for this negligent, harmful and misogynistic legislation.”
Sunday marked the 50th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the landmark decision that declared a constitutional right to abortion.
Emily Wales, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Great Plains, said the organization would honor the anniversary by fighting to protect access to abortion and birth control in Kansas, Arkansas, Missouri and Oklahoma.
“We may assume that the long arc of history bends towards justice, but we have a duty to seize it and pull it in that direction,” Wales said in a statement. “We have worked over the past year to do just that at Planned Parenthood Great Plains, serving as many patients seeking abortion care as possible, fighting intensely to protect access to Kansas, and working to reassure all patients in our four states. establish and support that we are here, and our doors remain open.”