Kansas Judge Blocks Several State Pro-Life Laws Ahead of 2024 Trial

Kansans for Life said the judge’s ruling left Kansas women ‘even more vulnerable to a predatory abortion industry.’

Kansas State Capitol
Kansas State Capitol (photo: By Elli; own work / CC0, Wikimedia Commons)

A judge in Kansas this week blocked several state-level pro-life laws there, claiming the measures are prohibited by the state Constitution.

District Judge K. Christopher Jayaram said in his Monday ruling that portions of the “Woman’s Right to Know” Act and the state Medication Abortion “Reversal” Amendment would be subject to temporary injunctions pending a trial in June 2024 on the merits of a lawsuit against the state filed by Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers.

The plaintiffs “are likely to succeed on the merits of their claims in this matter,” Jayaram wrote, and thus “they are entitled to a temporary injunction” before next year’s court date.

The “Woman’s Right to Know” Act, the original version of which was passed in 1997, stipulated among other rules that women seeking abortions in the state be provided with information including “a description of the proposed abortion method” and “a description of risks related to the proposed abortion method.”

Its notification rules imposed an effective “24-hour minimum waiting period” on women seeking abortions, Jayaram said. It was updated multiple times in the succeeding years, the judge noted, with a 2017 update even including stipulations of font style and size for notification documents.

The “Medication Abortion Reversal” Amendment, meanwhile — passed earlier this year — amended the act further to “requir[e] certain notifications that a medication abortion may be reversed.”

Jayaram in his ruling specifically leveled an injunction against the “waiting period provisions” and “mandatory disclosure requirements” contained within the laws.

The court “has great respect for the deeply held beliefs on either side of this contentious issue,” Jayaram wrote in his decision.

“Nevertheless, the state’s capacity to legislate pursuant to its own moral scruples is necessarily curbed by the Kansas Constitution and its Bill of Rights,” he claimed.

Elizabeth Kirk, the director of the Center for Law and the Human Person at The Catholic University of America, told CNA via email that she had earlier considered it “predictable and likely” that the state’s “basic informed-consent provisions” would be struck down in light of a 2019 Kansas Supreme Court ruling that the state Constitution guaranteed the “right” to an abortion.

“While the state of Kansas can and will make strong arguments defending the Women’s Right to Know Act, passed decades ago with bipartisan support, the extreme nature of the [2019] decision is such that it is likely that all abortion laws in Kansas will eventually be struck down,” she said.

Though Kansas over the past year instituted a major $2-million “Alternatives to Abortion” program, the state suffered a pro-life defeat last year when the “Value Them Both” ballot initiative to reverse the 2019 court ruling by amending the state Constitution was defeated by a wide margin.

“Abortion providers waited until after the Value Them Both Amendment failed to challenge this law,” Kirk said, “but I suspect we will see them challenge other laws in the future, such as Kansas’ restrictions on state funding of abortion, the state’s 22-week ban, or its parental-consent law.”

In a statement posted to its website and shared with CNA, the group Kansans for Life said the judge’s ruling left Kansas women “even more vulnerable to a predatory abortion industry.”

“This is a nightmare for women and a dream come true for the profit-driven abortion industry,” spokeswoman Danielle Underwood said in the statement.

“Women will pay the price for the deceitful practices of the abortion industry that consistently puts its own profits above all else,” she said.

In a phone interview with CNA on Tuesday, Underwood said: “We’ve been saying since 2019 that the abortion industry was going to come for all of our laws — that they would systematically sue and take legal action against all of our most reasonable, most commonsense restrictions that had been placed on abortion over the course of 20 years or more.”

“We had successfully, over that span of time, brought down abortions in our state by almost 50% and were successfully putting more protections in place for both moms and babies,” she said. “So we’re just really sad to see our predictions play out exactly as we foretold.”

Underwood said the laws under injunction represented “really basic protections” for vulnerable women seeking abortion in the state. She lamented what she said was Kansas’ “un-democratic” judicial system in which “one judge was able to remove 25 years of protections in one case.”

She said: “Hundreds of Kansans had participated in passing those restrictions, at the request of women who said they had been denied crucial information in their decision-making processes.”