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Bid Unveiled in Kansas to Curtail Abortion Rights

Kansas lawmakers proposed a constitutional amendment Thursday that could potentially affect abortion rights, after the Kansas Supreme Court ruled last year that women have the right to an abortion under the state's constitution.

(CN) – Kansas lawmakers proposed a constitutional amendment Thursday that could potentially affect abortion rights, after the state Supreme Court ruled last year that women have the right to the procedure.

Anti-abortion activists and lawmakers gathered at a Topeka press conference to unveil the Value Them Both constitutional amendment. While the proposed amendment does not specifically ban abortions, it does give legislators more power to limit them and undoes the Supreme Court's ruling.

Abortion rights advocates immediately condemned the proposal. Brandon Hill, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Great Plains said lawmakers are "trying to push a flawed and dangerous" amendment that blocks women from seeking health care.

"We don't need to change our constitution," Hill said. "We need to let women make personal medical decisions without interference from politicians."

Jeanne Gawdun, of the anti-abortion group Kansans For Life, said the amendment is meant to help women.

"Unlimited abortion hurts both women and children," she said. " [The proposed amendment] safeguards both women and babies from what soon could be an unregulated abortion industry."

The amendment states that abortion "does not require government funding" and "does not create or secure a right to abortion." It also states that Kansas lawmakers are, "to the extent allowed by the United States Constitution," allowed to "pass laws regarding abortion." It is modeled after the amendment approved in 2014 in Tennessee.

The proposed amendment reads: "Because Kansans value both women and children, the constitution of the state of Kansas does not require government funding of abortion and does not create or secure a right to abortion. To the extent permitted by the United States Constitution, the people through their elected state representatives and state senators may pass laws regarding abortion, including, but not limited to, in circumstances of pregnancy resulting from rape or incest or when necessary to save the life of the mother."

Anti-abortion advocates believe that the U.S. Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade may soon be overturned thanks to a majority of conservative justices currently sitting on the bench. Conservative lawmakers in other states have passed anti-abortion rights laws in an effort to chip away at Roe v. Wade and bring another challenge before the high court.

Many of these laws have been struck down by federal judges, noted as one of the reasons for the amendment proposal, according to Kansas Senate President Susan Wagle, a Republican running for U.S. Senate.

“Every reasonable, publicly supported regulation of the abortion industry may soon be struck down,” Wagle said in a statement Thursday, referring to the federal court decisions.

The proposed amendment will need to pass in both the state House and Senate with two-thirds support. If passed, it requires a simple majority in a statewide ballot. Although anti-abortion Republicans represent a majority in both chambers, it's unclear yet if the proposal has enough support to push through.

Last year, the Legislature failed to override Democratic Governor Laura Kelly's veto of a bill that would have required abortion providers to let patients know of a treatment that could disputedly stop a medication abortion.

A joint House and Senate committee meeting will convene Jan. 21 at the State Capitol to discuss the proposal. Supporters of the amendment are hoping to put it on a statewide ballot in August.

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