Judge blocks Kansas ban on 2nd-trimester abortion
A Kansas judge on Thursday blocked the state’s first-in-thenation ban on a procedure that opponents refer to as dismembering a fetus, concluding it would likely present too big an obstacle for women seeking to end their pregnancies.
Shawnee County District Court Judge Larry Hendricks ruled in a lawsuit filed earlier this month by the New York-based Center for Reproductive Rights. The center represents two Kansas abortion providers and argued the law would force women to undergo riskier procedures or forgo abortions.
The center argued that the procedure banned by the law is used in 95 percent of second-trimester abortions nationally and said previous U.S. Supreme Court rulings don’t allow a state to ban the most common method for terminating a pregnancy.
Hendricks said those arguments were likely to prevail, even though alternative abortion methods still would be legal. His order will stay in effect while he considers the lawsuit further. The new law was supposed to take effect July 1.
The judge also declared that the Kansas Constitution independently protects abortion rights at least as much as the U.S. Constitution does. Attorneys on both sides said such a ruling, if it stands, eventually could allow state courts to strike down restrictions that the U.S. Supreme Court has upheld.
Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback, a Republican and strong abortion opponent, was disappointed by the decision and believes “Kansas law should protect human dignity for all Kansans,” spokeswoman Eileen Hawley said
The new law would have banned doctors from using forceps, clamps, scissors or similar instruments on a live fetus to remove it from the womb in pieces. Such instruments are commonly used in dilation and evacuation procedures, but Kansas legislators said using them on a live fetus is inhumane.
Dilation and evacuation procedures accounted for about 9 percent of all abortions in Kansas last year, according to the state health department. The state already bans most abortions at or after the 22nd week of pregnancy.
The new law would make exceptions to the ban for preserving a woman’s life or preventing serious and permanent damage to her physical health. It also wouldn’t apply if doctors ensure that the fetus dies before using instruments to remove it from the womb.
The state’s lawyers argued that doctors could avoid violating the ban and still perform safe abortions many ways, such as first giving the fetus a lethal injection or by severing its umbilical cord.
But the lawsuit said there have been few studies of the safety of the alternative methods and that lethal injections for the fetus could increase of nausea, vomiting and infection in women.