Kansas’ abortion uncertainty fuels response to New York law

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas abortion opponents are as eager as ever to impose new restrictions but aren’t sure of their options because the state’s legal climate is uncertain. So in the meantime, they’re putting their energy into condemning New York’s new law protecting abortion rights.

The Kansas Senate adopted a resolution Thursday decrying the New York law as harmful to both “unborn children” and women, sending it to the House, where its approval also is expected. The Senate vote Thursday was 27-13 , reflecting exactly the number of sponsors for the measure, all but one of the chamber’s Republicans.

Abortion opponents across the nation have criticized the New York law as allowing abortions up to the moment of birth, with one resolution introduced in South Dakota calling it “barbaric.” The law permits women to end their pregnancies after 24 weeks for health reasons, when the state’s previous law said a woman’s life had to be at risk.

But in Kansas, the public condemnation also highlights abortion opponents’ anxiety over what the future holds in their state. The Kansas Supreme Court is considering whether the state constitution protects abortion rights in a lawsuit that threatens to upend nearly a decade’s worth of restrictions and stymie new ones. The court hasn’t ruled — thwarting work on a response.

“Why are we sending this message to New York? One important reason is because we want our Kansas Supreme Court to know that we would find this abortion mentality in our state as depraved and totally unacceptable,” state Sen. Mary Pilcher-Cook, a conservative Kansas City-area Republican, said Thursday in explaining her yes vote.

Republican leaders were so eager to send the message that they dispensed with committee hearings in the Senate and set its vote three days after the measure was introduced.

The New York law was designed to codify protections for a woman’s right to obtain an abortion granted by the U.S. Supreme Court’s historic 1973 Roe v. Wade decision and other court rulings a time when abortion-rights backers fear a more conservative high court might strike down Roe. It replaces a 1970 state law legalizing abortion.

Opposition from “people who are anti-choice” isn’t surprising, said New York state Sen. Liz Krueger, a Manhattan Democrat and a longtime supporter of the legislation.

“Lies and attacks are not going to intimidate New York from standing up for women’s rights,” said Mike Murphy, a spokesman for New York Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, a Yonkers Democrat.

In Kansas, Democratic senators are likely to send their own statement to counter their state’s formal resolution, which would be sent to New York’s governor and all its legislators. Because the GOP resolution would express the Legislature’s views, it would not go to new Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly — a strong abortion-rights supporter.

Sen. David Haley, a Kansas City Democrat, told his colleagues during their debate that New York “really doesn’t care” that Kansas legislators oppose the law.

Criticism of other states’ laws can spill over into formal action. A handful of liberal states have restricted travel by government employees to states with laws viewed as discriminatory against LGBTQ individuals. Kansas is on a list of nine states targeted by California.

In Missouri, a resolution introduced this week in the state Senate urges GOP Gov. Mike Parson to boycott New York and other states with similar abortion laws and prevent state workers from traveling there except in emergencies.

“Many, many of my constituents have reached out to me and said, ‘What can we do about this?’ Well you know, sorry, there’s not a whole lot we can do about it,” said the resolution’s sponsor, Sen. Paul Wieland, a conservative St. Louis-area Republican.

Kansas Senate President Susan Wagle, a conservative Wichita Republican, said New Yorkers’ celebration of their new law “just made a lot of people cringe.”

“We believe in Kansas in a culture of life, and most people in America believe in protecting life,” Wagle said during the debate on her state’s resolution.

In other red states, officials have condemned the New York law as they’ve pursued new abortion restrictions.

Supporters in Arkansas of a proposed “trigger law” to ban most abortions if Roe is overturned mentioned New York’s policy. In Iowa, Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds mentioned it as an impetus behind a proposed state constitutional amendment meant to overturn an Iowa Supreme Court decision last year protecting abortion rights.

In Kansas, legislators have adopted the approach of the anti-abortion group Kansans for Life in seeking incremental expected to survive federal court challenges. The group is pursuing legislation this year to require providers to tell women using medication to terminate their pregnancies that the process still can be reversed after the first of two pills.

But work on any legislation is clouded by the case before the Kansas Supreme Court, which heard arguments from attorneys nearly two years ago.

Abortion opponents haven’t introduced a proposed constitutional change yet, arguing that they need to see how the court actually rules. And Mary Kay Culp, executive director of Kansans for Life, said abortion opponents also could have an easier time building support for an amendment after a ruling than before it.

Meanwhile, abortion opponents acknowledged that it’s helpful to keep abortion issues visible by highlighting opposition to the New York law. Haley said the resolution creates a test vote on abortion issues to help GOP leaders in lobbying for other measures.

“There are other shoes to drop,” Haley said. “By no means at all do I think the discussion regarding abortion is done.”


Associated Press writers David Klepper in Albany, N.Y.; James Nord in Pierre, S.D.; Summer Ballentine and David Lieb in Jefferson City, Mo; Andrew DeMillo in Little, Rock, Ark., and David Pitt in Des Moines, Iowa, contributed to this report.


Follow John Hanna on Twitter: https://twitter.com/apjdhanna .