A Kansas ban on so-called “dismemberment abortions” — a term that does not exist in medical literature, but seems to refer to the most common form of abortion after 15 weeks — has been challenged in a state court there.
Herbert Hodes and Traci Nauser are a father-daughter team of abortion providers. Along with the Center for Reproductive Rights, they’ve filed suit on behalf of themselves and their patients in Shawnee County Court in Topeka, Kansas, against the law, which is a relatively new vehicle of the anti-abortion movement. The law seems to ban the dilation and extraction method of abortion, which would cut off access at least two months earlier than the limit set by the Supreme Court. About 95% of all second-trimester abortions are performed via dilation and extraction, according to the complaint. The law has since been copied in Oklahoma.
Hodes and Nauser said that if they cannot provide this procedure to their patients, the remaining options are less safe, have more side effects, or are generally untested. They added that the law singles out pregnant women and abortion providers and subjects them to unnecessary regulation.
In the 2007 decision Gonzales v. Carhart, decided 5-4, the U.S. Supreme Court said it wasn’t an “undue burden” to ban a specific abortion procedure if there were a safer alternative. Notably, the suit was filed in state court, usually a sign that the plaintiffs think that’s a more hospitable venue than a federal court. The suit makes claims based on the Kansas state constitution and not the U.S. constitution. It’s still possible, however, for the case to jump from Kansas’s highest court to the Supreme Court.
South Wind Women’s Center, another abortion clinic in Kansas, which is not party to the suit but is affected by the law, cheered the move. “As advocates for women, we cannot allow this clearly unconstitutional law to stand,” said Julie Burkhart, who runs the clinic. ”Kansas has become the test case for a ban created by out of state anti-choice groups. I ask Kansans to speak out against this law and support all efforts to overturn it.”