More than two dozen members of the Kansas House of Representatives have endorsed an amendment to the state constitution that would make abortion illegal in the state, potentially posing a constitutional challenge to the U.S. Supreme Court precedent set by Roe v. Wade.
The proposed amendment, which is expected to be introduced in the House this session, is the latest set of personhood legislation being weighed by state lawmakers. If passed by voters in November, the amendment would guarantee the rights of life, liberty and pursuit of happiness to individuals of all ages -- including the unborn -- by declaring that life begins the moment a woman's egg is fertilized.
Kansas has grown weary of the abortion debate, Bruce Garren, the Committee Chairperson for Personhood Kansas, said in a statement. We come back, year after year, and fight about which children will enjoy the full protection of the law, and which will not, just so we can gear up every twelve months and do it all over again.
Personhood USA is a Christian advocacy group that has advocated anti-abortion legislation in states across the country for years. Voters in Colorado rejected Personhood ballot initiatives in 2008 and 2010; in November, a similar amendment failed in Mississippi after it was rejected by 56 percent of the state's registered voters.
The Kansas amendment states that, with its passage, it would hereby guarantee the inalienable rights, equal protection and due process of law of every human being from the beginning of biological development of that human being, including fertilization.
An explanation of the measure that would printed on the ballot in November emphasizes that a vote against it would not amend the state constitution, meaning the current federally mandated legal status of preborn humans would remain that of a class of human beings that can intentionally be killed.
Freshman Rep. Randy Garber, a Republican, began circulating the bill when the legislators opened their session last week. Twenty-four state representatives co-sponsored the legislation by the end of the week, after which it was submitted to the House, The Associated Press reported.
Kansas Measure Requires Two-Thirds House, Senate Support
The bill must be passed by a two-thirds majority in both the House and Senate before it is brought before voters, where a simple majority vote will be sufficient to add the measure to the state constitution. Although Republicans currently have the majority in both chambers, local media outlets report the proposal will face a contentious debate in the Senate.
House Minority Leader Paul Davis, a Democrat, told the Topeka-Capital Journal that Kansans are weary of the anti-abortion agenda set by conservative lawmakers each year, although he added he has no doubt the personhood proposal will pass in the House.
Last year, the legislature -- with the support of Gov. Sam Brownback -- passed a slew of anti-abortion regulations, including a measure to restrict private insurance coverage of elective abortions and another requiring doctors to receive the consent of both parents before terminating a minor's pregnancy. The legislature also adopted an edict preventing the state from forwarding federal family planning funds to Planned Parenthood for non-abortion services.
Some abortion opponents have spoken out against the personhood amendment. Senate President Steve Morris, a Republican, told the Topeka-Capital Journal that vying for the two-thirds mandate would push the boundary of support in the Senate, which has recently embraced a series of controversial anti-abortion measures.
Meanwhile, Marry Kay Culp, the executive director of Kansans for Life, said in a statement that her organization does not support the personhood amendment because it could potentially allow the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold the validity of abortion as decided by the court's 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade.
[We] do not and cannot recommend a Kansas Personhood Initiative, nor a similar provision known as the Heartbeat Bill, nor do we consider support or opposition of these initiatives as an indication that an individual or a candidate is pro-life, Culp said.
Presenting a solid challenge to Roe v. Wade is one of the missions of Personhood USA. The organization insists the key to defeating the high court's ruling is a sentence in the decision that says if the suggestion of personhood is established, the appellant's case, of course, collapses, for the fetus' right to life would then be guaranteed specifically by the [Fourteenth] Amendment.
However, the case's opinion by Justice Harry Blackmun refers to personhood within the language and meaning of the Fourteenth Amendment, and concludes a person has a right to an abortion until the fetus is viable -- meaning, when it is able to live outside the mother's womb with or without artificial aid.
Personhood efforts have recently been introduced in Virginia, Nevada, and Ohio. Similar efforts are also underway in California, Montana, Arkansas, Florida and Colorado.