Kansas 2020 legislative session concludes without new restrictions on abortion access
OVERLAND PARK, Kan. — The 2020 Kansas state legislature adjourned today after nearly 24 hours in sine die without passing an amendment to the Kansas constitution restricting the right to abortion in the state.
Despite intense pressure from anti-abortion lobbyists and politicians, a bipartisan coalition of legislators held firm in opposing the constitutional amendment, and the legislative session adjourned until 2021 without passing any new restrictions on sexual and reproductive health.
The constitutional amendment to remove Kansans’ right to access to comprehensive reproductive care became the most contentious issue of the 2020 legislative session. When the Kansas House defeated the amendment in early February, Senate President Susan Wagle vowed to block Medicaid expansion, denying basic health care for thousands of Kansans.
“The defeat of a dangerous proposal to strip Kansans of their constitutional right to abortion is a victory, and we are grateful for the legislators who preserved this fundamental freedom,” said Planned Parenthood Great Plains Votes President and CEO Brandon Hill, PhD. “During an unprecedented health crisis, legislators had the opportunity to expand Medicaid and build a stronger, healthier state. Instead, they put personal political ambitions first to focus on restricting abortion access, and as a result Kansans’ health will suffer. Today marks a milestone for reproductive rights but the work continues.”
Since January, hundreds of concerned Kansans sent testimony, wrote letters, called legislators and traveled to Topeka to lobby their elected officials to oppose both constitutional amendment bills, SCR 1613 and HCR 5019.
“The politicians and organizations behind this constitutional amendment were clear about their ultimate goal: to ban abortion outright in the state of Kansas,” said Rachel Sweet, director of public policy for Planned Parenthood Great Plains Votes. “The defeat of this bill was a bipartisan effort that saw leaders in both parties put aside politics to work together for the best interests of Kansans. Everyone deserves the right to make personal medical decisions for themselves, in consultation with their families, faith, and doctors. In the 2020 legislative session, that right was preserved.”
Sweet cautioned that proponents of the constitutional amendment are unlikely to stop trying to amend the state constitution in future legislative sessions.
“I’m proud to say that access to reproductive health care is protected for all Kansans this year, but we will stay vigilant,” Sweet added. “We know that the politicians behind this bill have said that overturning the Kansas Supreme Court’s ruling on the right to abortion is their top priority and they will bring it up again. If we want to protect these victories in the long term, we need to vote for candidates in August and November who will stand up for our rights.”
Kansans interested in following Planned Parenthood Great Plains Votes advocacy work can visit www.ppgpvotes.org to learn more.
BACKGROUND ON SCR 1613/HCR 5019
Anti-abortion politicians and lobbyists pushed a constitutional amendment in the 2020 legislative session as a response to the Kansas Supreme Court’s April 2019 ruling in Hodes & Nauser v. Schmidt, which found that the Kansas Constitution guarantees the right to personal autonomy, including the right to decide whether to have an abortion. The Senate’s bill, SCR 1613, passed in the Kansas Senate on Jan. 29. On Feb. 7, SCR 1613 failed to reach a requisite 84-vote supermajority in the House to place the amendment on the state’s primary ballot, despite intense pressure from anti-abortion groups. HCR 5019, the companion constitutional amendment proposed in the Kansas House, was never called for a vote after the Senate’s bill failed to pass in the House.
Planned Parenthood Great Plains Votes is an independent, nonpartisan 501(c)4 nonprofit organization that advocates for sexual and reproductive health and rights in Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri, and Oklahoma. We lobby state lawmakers, mobilize more than 120,000 grassroots supporters, and engage in issue education in order to protect and expand access to health care and comprehensive sex education in the communities we serve, and to promote Planned Parenthood’s mission.