Saturday, January 23, 2016

Kansas Appeals Court Splits Evenly Over State Constitution's Protection of Abortion Rights

In Hodes & Nauser, MDs, P.A. v. Schmidt, (KA App., Jan. 22, 2016), the Kansas Court of Appeals sitting en banc split evenly, 7-7, on whether the Kansas state Constitution provides a right to abortion.  A decision for 6 judges, written by Judge Leben, held that:
sections 1 and 2 of the Kansas Constitution Bill of Rights provide the same protection for abortion rights as the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution...
 Judge Atcheson, in a concurring opinion, also concluded that the state Constitution protects the right to abortion, but  through language § 1 of the Constitution "prohibiting undue government interference with those inalienable rights, including reproductive freedom, that compose self-determination."

Judge Malone writing a dissenting opinion on behalf of 7 judges rejected the assertion that the Kansas Constitution protects abortion rights, saying in part:
We conclude that the plain language of §§ 1 and 2 of the Kansas Constitution Bill of Rights is not similar enough to the language of the Fourteenth Amendment to find that the corresponding provisions must be applied in the same manner..... Simply put, there is nothing within the text or history of §§ 1 and 2 of the Kansas Constitution Bill of Rights to lead this court to conclude that these provisions were intended to guarantee a right to abortion.
The effect of the even split was to affirm the trial court's grant of a preliminary injunction preventing the Kansas Unborn Child Protection from Dismemberment Abortion Act from taking effect. AP reports on the decision, noting that it was released on the 43rd anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision.