A proposed constitutional amendment introduced this week would effectively ban all abortions in Kansas by declaring that life begins at fertilization.
Republican Rep. Eric Smith is one of the amendment’s sponsors. To him, the measure gets at the heart of the matter where recent abortion debates haven’t.
“The root of the issue is are we talking about a life or are we talking about a right?” he said in an interview.
Supporters of the proposal want to extend constitutional rights to the unborn, starting at the moment of fertilization.
"At what age are we allowed to have the constitutional right of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness?" Smith said.
However, the state’s chief anti-abortion group will not be on board. Kansans for Life won’t support the amendment because its leaders believe the proposal would be struck down by the courts.
“That is something that just isn’t going to work at this time,” said KFL Executive Director Mary Kay Culp.
Planned Parenthood Great Plains blasted the proposal. A statement from the group said the amendment would have unintended consequences, including banning birth control.
“This is a blatant attempt to eliminate a woman’s right to access safe, legal abortion,” the group said in the statement.
It's a high bar to amend the state constitution: It takes a two-thirds vote from both chambers in the Legislature and approval from a majority of voters during a public election.
Democratic Rep. Stephanie Clayton doesn't believe enough lawmakers will be on board to meet that bar.
"To me it looks like it's just political bomb throwing," Clayton said.
Similar amendments have been offered in past years, but there could be more interest this time around because of a Supreme Court ruling that's potentially coming soon. The state Supreme Court is considering a lower court ruling that found a right to abortion in the Kansas Constitution. The justices will decide whether to uphold that decision.
If the justices find that right, Kansans for Life members are planning to pursue their own constitutional amendment.
“Make it beyond crystal clear," Culp said, "that there’s no right to unfettered abortion."
Stephen Koranda is Statehouse reporter for Kansas Public Radio, a partner in the Kansas News Service. Follow him on Twitter @kprkoranda. Kansas News Service stories and photos may be republished at no cost with proper attribution and a link back to the original post.